On Saturday, March 12, the International Women’s Air & Space Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, will celebrate the achievements of Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license at the museum’s sixth annual family day. The event is free and open to the public.
Coleman learned to fly in France in 1921 when she couldn’t find a flight school in the United States that would take her on as a student because of her race and gender. She returned to the U.S. and began a career as a barnstormer and lecturer before her tragic death in 1926.
The museum will celebrate Women’s History Month throughout the day and will give visitors the opportunity to learn about Coleman’s struggles and triumphs through a variety of activities, including a recreated sharecropper’s house, and a “Learn French” booth where children will decipher a message from Bessie written in French. Free activities will also be provided by several area organizations, including Women in History, who will be doing a Bessie Coleman presentation twice during the day.
The public celebration of women’s history in this country began in 1978 as “Women’s History Week” in Sonoma County, California. The week including March 8, International Women’s Day, was selected. In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) co-sponsored a joint Congressional resolution proclaiming a national Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress expanded the celebration to a month, and March was declared Women’s History Month.
Admission to the International Women’s Air & Space Museum is free. Exhibits are open 8 am–8 pm daily. For more information: 216-623-1111 or iwasm.org