Tiny, Mighty, and Fearless Flyer

On June 21, 1913, Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick became the first woman to skydive from an airplane. She performed her stunts all around the United States, often jumping from hot air balloons and airplanes like the one pictured here.

I’m so glad I came across this story. There’s got to be the first one to try it. She led the way for future flyers. Fearless, Mighty and Tiny. 

  • Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick was the first woman to jump from an airplane.
  • Between 1913 and 1922 she completed over 1,100 jumps. She invented the ripcord and is the only female member of the Early Birds of Aviation.
  • In 1914, she demonstrated parachutes to the U.S. Army, which at the time had a small, hazard-prone fleet of aircraft. The Army, reluctant at first to adopt the parachute, watched as Tiny dropped from the sky. On one of her demonstration jumps, the static line became entangled in the tail assembly of the aircraft, so for her next jump she cut off the static line and deployed her chute manually, thus becoming the first person to jump free-fall. This demonstrated that pilots could escape aircraft by using what was later called a ripcord.

Women’s History Month: The Incredible Story of Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick | ASOMF

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Georgia Ann Thompson was born in Granville County, North Carolina on April 8th, 1893. She weighed just three pounds, thus giving her the nickname “Tiny”. The name stuck for the rest of her life because even when fully grown, she was just 5 feet tall and weighed only 80 pounds. Georgia married at 12, and had a daughter, Verla, at 13. After her husband was killed in an accident, she had to work 14-hour days in a cotton mill to support her little family.

Tiny Broadwick’s last jump was in 1922, when she was just 29 years old. Chronic problems with her ankles forced her into retirement. She stated at the time, “I breathe so much better up there, and it’s so peaceful being that near to God.”

Tiny received many honors and awards in her lifetime, including the U.S. Government Pioneer Aviation award and the John Glenn Medal. She is one of the few women in the Early Birds of Aviation, and she also received the Gold Wings of the Adventurer’s Club in Los Angeles. In 1964, Tiny was made an honorary member of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg. With that honor, she was told she could jump any time she chose. At the age of 85, Tiny Broadwick died and was buried in her home state of North Carolina.

  • On June 21, 1913, 20-year-old Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick became the first woman parachutist to jump from an airplane. The historic achievement wasn’t a publicity stunt (though it received plenty of attention from the press), but rather an attempt to push the boundaries of her unusual profession.
  • Six years earlier, when she still went by the name Georgia Anne Thompson, Tiny attended the North Carolina State Fair. There, she witnessed parachutists from “The Broadwicks and Their Famous French Aeronauts” leap from hot air balloons before an amazed crowd. The spectacle lit a spark in 14-year-old Tiny, and she decided right then and there she would become a parachutist herself. So, she approached the head of the Aeronauts, Charles Broadwick, and asked him if she could join the troupe. Broadwick agreed, and Tiny became his apprentice. A year later, Broadwick legally adopted her, and so she took on his last name.
  • For the next four years, Tiny toured the United States with the Broadwicks and Their Famous French Aeronauts, performing skydiving stunts from hot air balloons. In 1912, she met the famous stunt pilot Glenn Martin at one of her shows in Los Angeles, and he asked whether she’d be interested in jumping out of one of his airplanes. Tiny immediately accepted his offer. 

  • Thus, on June 21 of the following year, Tiny mounted a trapeze-looking swing affixed to the side of Martin’s Model T biplane, and the pair ascended into the sky over Los Angeles, enroute to making history. Tiny’s parachute, which Charles Broadwick designed specifically for this endeavor, was made of silk and packed into a knapsack. The knapsack was attached to a canvas jacket worn by Tiny, while the parachute was connected by string to the fuselage. When Martin reached 2,000 feet in altitude, Tiny pulled a lever, dropping her seat out from under her, then free-fell for a few seconds until she deployed her chute and floated down into Griffin Park. 
  • Tiny’s reputation as a parachutist grew as a result of the jump — so much so, in fact, that in 1914 she was recruited by the US Army Air Corps to teach soldiers how to properly skydive from an airplane.

Tiny, Mighty, and Fearless Flyer
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