Behind the Photo: How Tiny Broadwick Became the First Woman To Skydive From an Airplane

Tiny-Broadwick-1200x800

On June 21, 1913, Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick became the first woman to skydive from an airplane. She performed her stunts all around the United States, often jumping from hot air balloons and airplanes like the one pictured here. Wikimedia Commons photo.

On June 21, 1913, 20-year-old Georgia “Tiny” Broadwick became the first woman parachutist to jump from an airplane. The historic achievement wasn’t a publicity stunt (though it received plenty of attention from the press), but rather an attempt to push the boundaries of her unusual profession.

Six years earlier, when she still went by the name Georgia Anne Thompson, Tiny attended the North Carolina State Fair. There, she witnessed parachutists from “The Broadwicks and Their Famous French Aeronauts” leap from hot air balloons before an amazed crowd. The spectacle lit a spark in 14-year-old Tiny, and she decided right then and there she would become a parachutist herself. So she approached the head of the Aeronauts, Charles Broadwick, and asked him if she could join the troupe. Broadwick agreed, and Tiny became his apprentice. A year later, Broadwick legally adopted her, and so she took on his last name.

For the next four years, Tiny toured the United States with the Broadwicks and Their Famous French Aeronauts, performing skydiving stunts from hot air balloons. In 1912, she met the famous stunt pilot Glenn Martin at one of her shows in Los Angeles, and he asked whether she’d be interested in jumping out of one of his airplanes. Tiny immediately accepted his offer.

Thus, on June 21 of the following year, Tiny mounted a trapeze-looking swing affixed to the side of Martin’s Model T biplane, and the pair ascended into the sky over Los Angeles, en route to making history. Tiny’s parachute, which Charles Broadwick designed specifically for this endeavor, was made of silk and packed into a knapsack. The knapsack was attached to a canvas jacket worn by Tiny, while the parachute was connected by string to the fuselage. When Martin reached 2,000 feet in altitude, Tiny pulled a lever, dropping her seat out from under her, then free-fell for a few seconds until she deployed her chute and floated down into Griffin Park.

Tiny’s reputation as a parachutist grew as a result of the jump — so much so, in fact, that in 1914 she was recruited by the US Army Air Corps to teach soldiers how to properly skydive from an airplane.

Read Next: The Female War Reporter Who Parachuted Into Vietnam With French Commandos

Matt Fratus is a history staff writer for Coffee or Die. He prides himself on uncovering the most fascinating tales of history by sharing them through any means of engaging storytelling. He writes for his micro-blog @LateNightHistory on Instagram, where he shares the story behind the image. He is also the host of the Late Night History podcast. When not writing about history, Matt enjoys volunteering for One More Wave and rooting for Boston sports teams.
More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Airmen assigned to the MacDill Air Force Base are allowed to evacuate as Hurricane Ian approaches, but some may have to pay for their own evacuation.
The combined Chinese-Russian surface action group intercepted by US forces earlier in September in the Bering Sea was far more powerful than initially reported.
Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency reported that Russian commanders authorized rear detachments to open fire on soldiers who abandon their battlefield positions.
A Houston, Texas, couple was stunned to find that a gun case they bought from an online surplus retailer held a dozen M16-style rifles.
The defense team is trying to punch holes in the prosecution’s theory about what caused the Bonhomme Richard blaze.
The Chinese-Russian surface action group was sailing north of Kiska Island.
Larry Nemec mysteriously disappeared off his boat near Galveston, Texas.
NCIS claims Seaman Recruit Ryan Mays sparked the $1.2 billion Bonhomme Richard blaze.
TacGas, a media production company for the tactical and entertainment industries, made its mark producing and capturing hyperrealistic and supremely accurate military simulations for its clients’ marketing and training needs.
Now that active-duty Army recruits can select their first duty stations, Alaska’s bases and Fort Carson, Colorado, have come out on top. Midwestern bases and Bragg — not so much.