Published: March 20, 2018
In celebration of Women's History Month this March, let us introduce you to the famous female skydivers who pioneered our sport: Tiny Broadwick, Kathe Paulus and Jeanne Genevieve Labrosse-Garnerin.
Though not widely known, women's involvement in skydiving is not a recent development. In fact, the sport was defined by the contributions of women - particularly a few curageous female skydivers who we have to thank for innovating many modern developments in skydiving.
Tiny Broadwick - Skydiving Pioneer
Tiny Broadwick - born Georgia Ann Thompson - is the most famous American female skydiver. Nicknamed "Tiny" for her diminutive size at birth and small stature in adult hood, Broadwick made her first jump from a balloon in 1908 at the North Carolina State Fair. A few years later, in 1912, Tiny was the first woman to parachute from an airplane, and in 1914, she was called upon to demonstrate the usefulness of parachuting as an effective method of escape for pilots. During the fourth jump of this demonstration, Tiny became entangled in the tail assembly of the plane and was forced to cut the line of her parachute. Tiny pulled the remaining line to release the parachute, and in doing so, earned herself the credit of the first person to deploy a parachute manually and to jump free fall rather than static line.
Kathe Paulus - Skydiving Inventor
Kathe Paulus - though more well known to German audiences - is another woman in the famous female skydiver club. She is attributed with being the inventor of the collapsible parachute. In addition to this notable accomplishment, she may have been an early inventor of the 'reserve' parachute. In a spectacular display, Paulus created a 'double crash' in which she broke away from an air ship (balloon) and as she did so a parachute was deployed. She then detached from this parachute and another opened. Kathe Paulus further utilized her adeptness for tailoring to become the primary adviser of balloon reconnaissance troops for Germany during the First World War.
Jeanne Genevieve Labrosse-Garnerin - First Female Skydiver
The earliest example of female involvement in skydiving is Jeanne Genevieve Labrosse-Garnerin. Labrosse was a French balloonist and female parachutist. In 1798, she made her name as the first female to ascend in a balloon solo. On October 1799, she became the first woman to make a parachute descent while in the gondola of a balloon. As if those accomplishments weren't notable enough, she and her husband filed a patent application for the frameless parachute.
Women's Role in Modern Skydiving
According to a 2016 survey conducted by the United States Parachute Association, the gender demographic breakdown of skydivers is Male-87% and Female-13%. Though this reveals an athletic pursuit that is still heavily male-dominated, we are upbeat about the increasing diversity we see at our dropzone.
Maybe it's not a much-talked about fact, but women have been responsible for consistently contributing to the growth of skydiving. At many dropzones, female skydivers have taken on a very active role, and skydiving groups are encouraging female participation in the sport, as well as involvement in leadership roles within the community. Such groups include the Women's Skydiving Leadership Network and the mentorship program of the United States Parachute Association, Sisters in Skydiving.
So next time you head out to our dropzone, bring your BFF, sister, aunty, mom or grandma and introduce them to a sport they can be proud other women have pioneered!
Jeanne Genevieve Labrosse: