Jackie Cochran was independent, persistent, she was adventurous and driven to achieve, and when she “set her mind to do something, she was a damned Sherman tank at full steam.”
Born in 1906, Jackie took her first job in 1912 at the age of six, working twelve-hour days in a Georgia cotton mill, earning six cents an hour. From there, she moved on to cooking and cleaning and then to a beauty parlor, where she would eventually become one of the best hairdressers in New York City.
In the early 1930s, Jackie took up flying, earning her pilot’s license in 1932. Within a few years, she was setting speed records.
During World War II, what first began with a letter from Jackie to Eleanor Roosevelt about a division in the Army Air Forces for female pilots, eventually led to creating the Women Airforce Service Pilots. Directed by Jackie, this civilian organization trained over a thousand pilots, who took part in testing and ferrying airplanes, towing targets, and simulating missions, amongst many responsibilities.
After the war, the “Golden Girl,” as people called her, would go on to set more flying records, including becoming the first woman to break the sound barrier. When she passed away in 1980, Jackie held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot in history.
Sources: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (https://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/women-in-aviation/cochran.cfm) / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacqueline_Cochran / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_Airforce_Service_Pilots / Image Number 4A-23096-K1210, Record Group 342, National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, College Park, Maryland