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Video - Elisa Deroche: first woman pilot

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On 8 March 1910, she became the world’s first woman to receive her airplane pilot’s license from the Aero-Club of France. Elisa Léontine Deroche, was a dramatic actress, known by her stage name, Baroness de Laroche, and embodied French elegance. She was born here, in this house, in Paris on 22 August 1882; however, it was not on the stage that she shone but in the air.

She became friends with Charles Voisin, a French aviation pioneer, who introduced her to flying in a Voisin. Having obtained her license, she participated in numerous air shows in France and abroad.

In her short life, Elisa Deroche miraculously escaped death twice. On 8 July 1910, at Reims (East of Paris), she received multiple fractures when her Voisin biplane crashed. Two years later she escaped unhurt in a road accident, in which her friend and driver, aircraft manufacturer, Charles Voisin was killed.

After WW1, the aviator set several records, one for altitude (15,700 ft / 4,800 m), and one for distance (201 miles / 323 km); however, after the glory, on 18 July 1919, came the drama, at the young age of 36. During a training flight over north-western France, both she and her co-pilot were killed when her plane crashed. Ironically, it was not she who was at the controls of the aircraft.

Elisa Deroche is buried in Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. She became the world’s first licensed woman aviator on 8 March, which coincidentally, would later become International Women's Day.

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