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Women Aviators in Pre-War France

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In the years after the First World War, aviation became the most exciting form of transport, the spirit of a new age; but for French women, as Sian Reynolds explains, it was also a paradigm of their struggle for equality.

In 1921, Adrienne Bolland, a French woman aged twenty-six, flew solo across the Andes in a borrowed Caudron G3, an aircraft with a maximum altitude of only 12,000 feet, so she had to find a corridor through the highest peaks in order to survive. The only reason she had a plane at all was that she had personally approached the manufacturer, Rene Caudron, and demonstrated at his request her ability to loop the loop. Bolland's rather spectacular exploit was widely reported – the Andes had only been overflown for the first time in 1918 by Lieutenant Candelaria – and she became the first of the postwar generation of French women aviators to catch the public eye.

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