Jackie Cochran was born Bessie Mae Pittman in 1906 in Muscogee, a thriving lumber town on the border between Florida and Alabama, west of Cantonment. As a child, Jackie moved from place to place then spent time in this mill town with her adopted family.
She became a beautician and decided that the name Bessie Mae Pittman wasn’t sophisticated enough, so she looked in the phone book and picked out a better name — Jacqueline Cochran. At one time she worked in a beauty shop in downtown Pensacola. From there she rose to become one of history’s most accomplished female aviators. She learned to fly in 1932 while working as a cosmetics sales person. Her future husband Floyd Odlum had told Cochran that flying would help her get a leg up on her competition.
A few accomplishments:
Flew in the London, England to Melbourne, Australia race in 1934
In 1935, became the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race, which she won in 1938
Became the first woman to make a blind instrument landing in 1937
Set new women’s records during 1939-40, in altitude and open class speed plus the New York to Miami race
She founded the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program during WWII, and received the
Distinguished Service Medal.
Was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean
Received the Harmon Trophy in 1950 as the Aviatrix of the Decade
In 1953, became the first woman to exceed the speed of sound
In 1962, became the first woman to fly a jet, subsequently setting 73 records in three years and exceeded Mach 2 in 1964