Friday, June 04, 2010

Portrait Friday (Sort Of)

I found a fascinating historical tidbit about this day in history--on June 4, 1784 Elisabeth Thible became the first woman to ride in a hot air balloon! Since I couldn't find an actual portrait of her, this print of a balloon ascent will have to do.

June 4, 1784 was just 8 months after the very first balloon flight and so this was probably a rather frightening undertaking for a "civilian"! Monsieur Fleurant, the pilot, was originally meant to travel with a Count de Laurencin, who had been one of the 6 passengers on the Montgolfier flight in January (a flight that did not end well--the balloon started to tear apart and smolder close to landing, though luckily no one was killed! No wonder Laurencin chickened out on the second ride). But Mademoiselle Thible took her place dressed as the goddess Minerva. The two sang arias from the latest popular opera of the day La Belle Arsene during the 45-minute flight, which traveled 4 km and reached 1500 meters. The mademoiselle injured her ankle on the bumpy landing, and spent the flight feeding the fire box as well as singing. She became a popular heroine for a time.

Source: Women Aloft, Time-Life Books, 1981

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