Profile of the Day: Jacqueline Cochran

Posted May 18, 2021 by Amanda | No Comment

On this day in 1953, pioneering aviator Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier.

Image: Jacqueline Cochran / San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive, Flickr

Cochran was born Bessie Lee Pittman on May 11, 1906 to Ira Pittman and Mary Grant. After divorcing her first husband, Robert Cochran, she began using the name Jacqueline or “Jackie.”

Cochran moved to New York where she landed a position at the prestigious Saks Fifth Avenue salon. It was there that she met wealthy businessman Floyd Bostwick Odlum, who suggested she take up flying. It took her just three weeks to learn to fly. A savvy marketer, Odlum helped Cochran launch her own successful cosmetic line called Wings of Beauty. She would fly around the country in her own plane to promote her products.

A naturally gifted aviator, Cochran began competing in major air races. She flew her first race in 1934 at the MacRobertson Air Race, where was the only woman to compete. By 1938, she was considered the best female pilot in the United States.

During World War II, she played an instrumental role in the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). In 1941, Corchran became the first woman to fly a bomber across the Northern Atlantic. She was later appointed to direct the WASP program and helped train women pilots throughout the war. In 1945, Cochran received the Distinguished Service Medal for her wartime service.

After the war, Cochran continued to follow her passion for air races and set many more aviation records. At the time of her death in 1980, Cochran held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot in history.

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Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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