Born Elise Raymonde Deroche in Paris, France, Raymonde de Laroche (1882 – 1919) was the daughter of a plumber. Later, she became an actress and used the stage name “Raymonde de Laroche”.
After riding in an airplane, she decided to add “pilot” to her list of accomplishments and jumped at French aviator Charles Voisin’s offer to teach her to fly. On October 29, 1909, just after her twenty-third birthday, De Laroche met Voisin at the Chalons airfield where he and his brother, Gabriel, built and flew their own planes.
The Voisin aircraft was a one-seater. There was with no room for both student and instructor. The pupil had to sit in the plane and listen to the instructor shout orders from the ground. De Laroche was instructed to drive the plane down the open field but to not, under any circumstances, lift off. However, she had a mind of her own. After a few taxi runs around the field, she knew she was ready for take-off. Against her instructor’s orders, she opened up the throttle, raced down the airstrip and rose about fifteen feet in the air before landing smoothly.
On March 8, 1910, she became the first woman to earn a pilot licence worldwide, #36.
De Laroche performed in numerous aviation meetings throughout Europe and in Africa. At the Saint Peterburg’s event, Tsar Nicholas II presented her with the “Baroness” title.