Born in Tournai, Belgium, Hélène Dutrieu (1877 – 1961) left school at the age of 14 to earn a living. She became a speed track cycling world champion, a stunt cyclist, a motorcycle stunt rider, and an automobile racer and stunt driver before becoming interested in aviation.
She began to fly in early 1910. She reputedly was the first woman pilot to fly with a passenger in April of that year. On November 25, 1910, she became the first Belgian woman (4th in the world) to receive a pilot licence.
She set numerous records such as longest distance, highest altitude and longest time aloft. In late 1910, she was the first winner of the Femina Cup.
In 1911, she was the only woman in a field of 15 pilots competing for the King’s Cup air race. She outperformed all of her male competitors to win the King’s Cup and became the first woman to win an air race.
One year later, in July 1912, she became the first woman to pilot a seaplane.
During World War I, she first drove ambulances but was later promoted to manage a military hospital. She later became the vice president of the Aero Club de France.