Bessie Coleman: "World's Greatest Woman Flyer"

What would you do to achieve your dreams? Bessie Coleman had a dream. She wanted to fly, but no one would teach her because she was a black woman. She searched until she found a way. She refused to let anyone stop her dream.

When Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, in 1892, life was not easy. She was the tenth of what would be thirteen children. Her father was mostly Native American, while her mother was black. When Bessie was nine, her father left the family and returned to Oklahoma.

Bessie's mother went to work as a cook and housekeeper while Bessie watched her younger sisters. Her older brothers left home to seek their fortunes.

As a small child, Bessie showed a real gift for working with numbers. She managed the family money for her mother.

In spite of living four miles from the nearest school, she attended class every day. She walked to school every day. She borrowed books from the library and read them to her family at night. After completing the eighth grade, Bessie received a scholarship to continue her education at a local church school.

Bessie was determined to be someone someday. She studied and worked hard, saving any money she earned. She attended college for only one term before her money ran out. Bessie returned home again and worked as a laundress.

In 1915, she moved to Chicago to live with one of her brothers. She worked as a manicurist in a barber shop. There, she heard stories about flying from men who had been pilots in World War I. She took on a second job at a restaurant to earn more money. She was named the best and fastest manicurist in the city by the Chicago Defender newspaper. As a result, Bessie made a new friend in its publisher, Robert Abbott.

When another of her brothers returned home from WWI, he teased her about how much freedom French women had. They were so free they could even become pilots.

The idea of becoming a pilot ignited Bessie's imagination. In a time when few white women learned to fly, no one would teach a black woman.

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