Ipswich daughter 'deserves full recognition' as first British woman pilot

Edith Cook flew an aeroplane solo in January 1910, learning her craft in Southern France

Pioneering pilot Edith Cook was the daughter of an Ipswich confectioner based in Foundation Street - Credit: Supplied by Sally Smith

An Ipswich woman was the first woman in Britain to fly an aeroplane - and details of her life have been published in a new book. 

Edith Cook, a daughter of an Ipswich confectioner, learned to fly in Pau in Southern France.

In her home town, a blue plaque commemorates her exploits, and can be found at 90 Fore Street - the place of her birth.

A fundraising drive was also launched to try and pay for a statue in her honour.

She flew solo in a Bleriot XI monoplane in January 1910, more than a year before Hilda Hewlett became the first British woman to earn a pilot's license. 

Despite the best efforts of the Suffolk Aviation Heritage Group, with so few photographs and records of Edith Cook her legacy has remained obscure - until writer Sally Smith decided to research and tell her story. 

She said: "The problem was that Edith learned to fly in France. Her background, the daughter of a confectioner in Foundation Street in central Ipswich, can easily be verified, but when it came to her flying activities, records were few on the ground. 

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"It took a lot of research and enormous help from aviation historians in France that the amazing story of Edith Cook gradually unravelled. Her background, doing parachuting displays around Britain, was exciting enough; but in the Edwardian days, to travel on her own across Europe by various steam trains, showed a very independent spirit."

A new book tells the story of Ipswich woman, Edith Cook, who is recorded as the first British woman to fly a plane

Edith Cook flew an aeroplane solo in January 1910, learning her craft in Southern France - Credit: Supplied by Sally Smith

The attitudes of the time meant that things weren't easy for Edith, even when she arrived at Pau flying school with money for lessons. 

Instructors favoured the male students, believing that women weren't suited for the pilot life. 

"If she had taken the official French test, she could well have become the world's very first pilot. However, instead she returned to the UK with the aim of buying an aircraft and flying across the Channel, something that would have made sensational news at the time. 

"Sadly an accident brought Edith's adventures to an early close. But now there is no doubt she was Britain's first ever woman to fly an aeroplane, and for that she deserves full recognition in Britain's history books." 

The new book, Magnificent Women and Flying Machines, was released on November 1 by The History Press and tells the story of Edith Cook's life. 

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