Born in Fort Payne, Alabama, Katherine Stinson (1891 – 1977) was passionate about music and wanted to travel to Europe to study. To raise funds, she decided to cash in on the aviation craze at the time by becoming a stunt pilot. She had a difficult time finding an instructor willing to teach a woman but eventually convinced aviation pioneer Max Lillie. In 1912, she became the fourth woman in the United States to receive a pilot licence.
Abandoning music, she performed stunts at aviation meetings around the world, including Asia, and became the first American woman (second worldwide) to perform a loop. In 1913, she became the first commissioned female airmail pilot in the world. She also undertook night skywriting using flares.
When World War I broke out, she volunteered to fly but was rejected. Instead, she drove ambulances. During that time, she contracted tuberculosis and was unable to continue flying.
Her flying inspired her brothers to form the Stinson Aircraft Company.