Stinson, Marjorie Claire (1894–1975)


By: Gwendolyn Lockman

Type: Biography

Published: July 30, 2022

Updated: July 30, 2022


Marjorie Claire Stinson, one of the earliest licensed women pilots in the United States, was born to Edward Anderson Stinson, an electrical engineer, and Emma A. (Beavers) Stinson on July 5, 1894, in Fort Payne, Alabama. Her family moved to Canton, Mississippi, in 1896., then to Jackson, Mississippi, by 1910. Her older sister, Katherine, was also a pioneering woman pilot, and her brothers, Eddie and Jack, pursued careers in aviation as well.

In approximately 1910 Marjorie Stinson moved with her family to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, then to Hot Springs, where she graduated from high school in May 1912. In June 1914 she enrolled in the Wright School at Dayton, Ohio, to learn to pilot a plane. Although not yet eighteen years old, she caught the attention of Orville Wright, who required her mother give permission for lessons by telegram. She kept a diary during her time at the Wright School and detailed the mechanics of the planes she flew and daily life at the school. She received her pilot’s license, No. 303, in August 1914 and was the ninth woman in the United States to achieve this feat. Her sister, Katherine, had become the country’s fourth licensed woman pilot in 1912. Katherine Stinson, along with her mother Emma and Abner Cook, founded the Stinson Aviation Company in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 1913. The following year the Stinson family relocated to San Antonio, Texas, where they established the Stinson School of Flying in 1915. Marjorie Stinson began her long teaching career by instructing her younger brother, Jack.

In May 1915 Marjorie Stinson became the first woman pilot authorized by the United States to carry mail by air, but the flights scheduled to carry mail between San Antonio and Seguin were cancelled due to high winds. In November 1915, when the Liberty Bell made its way through Texas on a national tour (see LIBERTY BELL TOUR OF TEXAS), Stinson flew overhead during the festivities in San Antonio and “bombarded the crowd with flowers.” The same year, she was the first and only woman inducted into the U.S. Aviation Reserve Corps, which had been organized by Albert Bond Lambert with permission of the U.S. Secretary of the Navy in 1913. Stinson became known as “The Flying Schoolmarm” when, during World War I, she taught cadets of the Royal Canadian Flying Corps at the Stinson School. After the war, Stinson worked as a draftswoman for the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Navy and lived in Washington, D. C. She was a charter member of the Ninety-Nines, an organization founded in 1929 at Curtiss Field, Long Island, New York, by 99 (out of the 117) licensed women pilots that year; among the other founders was Amelia Earhart. Any woman with a pilot’s license was eligible for membership. The organization’s purpose was to promote fellowship and jobs and to maintain a central office with files on women in aviation.

In 1930 Marjorie Stinson travelled throughout the U.S. with a group of pilots to meet fans and young people interested in aviation. Two years later, sadly, her brother Eddie died of injuries received when his plane crashed outside of Chicago. In 1936 Katherine and Marjorie Stinson visited San Antonio with other prominent pilots for the dedication of Stinson Municipal Airport, named after Eddie Stinson.

Marjorie Stinson never married. She died in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 1975. Her ashes were scattered from a 1931 Curtiss Pusher aircraft at the Stinson Municipal Airport in San Antonio. Her estate donated her papers to the Library of Congress after her death. In 1997 the National Aeronautic Association created the Katherine and Marjorie Stinson Trophy, which recognizes a living person for an outstanding and enduring contribution to the role of women in the field of aviation, aeronautics, space, or related sciences.

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Aerial Age Weekly, April 17, 1916. Angela Boswell, Women in Texas History (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2018). D. Cochrane and P. Ramirez, “Marjorie Stinson,” Women in Aviation and Space History, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, (https://airandspace.si.edu/explore-and-learn/topics/women-in-aviation/StinsonM.cfm), accessed July 9, 2019. Corpus Christi Caller, June 16, 1929. Fort Payne Journal, August 5, 1896. Barbara Ganson, Texas Takes Wing: A Century of Flight in the Lone Star State (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014). F. Robert van der Lindon, Airlines and Air Mail: The Post Office and the Birth of the Commercial Aviation Industry (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2014). New York Times, April 16, 1975. Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, August 22, 1911; May 7, 1913. Mary Beth Rogers, Janelle D. Scott, and Sherry A. Smith, We Can Fly: Stories of Katherine Stinson and other Gutsy Texas Women (Austin: Ellen C. Temple, 1983). San Antonio Light, May 10, 1915; November 27, 1935; September 6, 1936; December 28, 1975.

Categories:
  • Aviation and Aerospace
  • Education
  • Military Institutes and Flight Schools
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Military
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
Places:
  • Central Texas
  • San Antonio

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Gwendolyn Lockman, “Stinson, Marjorie Claire,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/stinson-marjorie-claire.

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July 30, 2022
July 30, 2022

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