Between the mountains

Fragile wings carry it very high in the sky. Agile like a condor, it flies over deep valleys and snow-capped Andes. Icy wind whips its cabin. At its controllers, her pilot deceives death, but she is determined. Through the clouds, she finally finds the passage between the mountains.

A human and technical feat

It was April 1, 1921. Her name was Adrienne Bolland, French aviator then aged 25. She was the first woman in the world to cross the Andes by plane. Her feat brought her glory.

Since 1913 male pilots had already passed through this mountain range. As the daring woman she was, she also tried this challenge.  The structure of her plane, a Caudron G3, was made of wood and canvas.

A “real chicken coop”, which “developed 80 little donkeys” commented with mischief the former aviator to Jacques Chancel in 1972.

This single engine biplane of 80 horses had a maximum ceiling of 4300 meters. The brave pilot had no good thermal protection. Even worst, she had no map, no navigational instruments, and no knowledge of the area. Yet she has achieved a real human and technical feat flying over the Andes.

 

Acrobatic talent

It was near the Aconcagua, the highest point of the chain, 6,962 meters high, that she passed the mountain during a fabulous flight. Arrived in Santiago de Chile after a 4h15 flight, she received a triumphal welcome.

Emeritus pilot, she often showed the public her acrobatic talent,  performing great tricks at aerobatic gatherings. In 1924 at Orly near Paris, she broke the women’s looping record with 212 loops in 72 minutes.

Great commitments

Her life was also marked by great charitable causes. First, she supported Louise Weiss for the feminist cause. Then she got involved in the anti-fascist fight of the Spanish Republicans, with André Malraux.

Close to Jean Moulin, she resisted the German occupation in the network CND-Castille. It was in Donnery, village of the Loiret department, in the forest of Orleans, Centre-Val de Loire (Loire Valley) region of France.

Born in 1895 in Arcueil (Val-de-Marne, France), she died in 1975 in Paris. She lies beside her husband, the aviator Ernest Vinchon, at Donnery. Despite her commitments and exploits, her name is today little known.

This hero of the last century did not have the posthumous homage she deserved.  Although her modesty and free spirit did not make her run after the rewards.

Admirers are trying to bring her back to light. Yet, in the public interest, French society owes her recognition as a result of her personality and exceptional actions

When will a Adrienne Bolland museum be created?

Article written for Ligeris Media on the occasion of #MuseumWeek, #WomenMWDay

Find out more:

Article on Wikipedia (in English)

Podcasts (in French)

“La rebelle des Andes”, podcast de l’émission “Autant en emporte l’Histoire” on France Inter *. Septembre 27, 2015.

* A major French public radio channel and part of Radio France

“Adrienne Bolland : « Ce qui passe avant tout, pour moi, c’est la liberté “

Interview dated April 19, 1972. Rebroadcasted on the radio show “Radioscopie de Jacques Chancel”, France Inter, July 25, 2016.

Latest books (in French)

Martine Laporte, “Adrienne Bolland, la déesse des Andes”, Villalobos Éditions, 2015.

Coline Béry **, “Adrienne Bolland ou Les ailes de la liberté”, Paris, Le Passeur, 2016.

 

** Anne Vanier, whose author’s name is “Coline Béry”, is the specialist in the history of Adrienne Bolland.