Beryl Markham, (October 26, 1902 - August 3, 1986)
Beryl Markham was an adventurer, author, horse trainer, and aviatrix known for being the first woman to make a solo east-west flight across the Atlantic.
Moving to Kenya from England at the age of four, Beryl grew up on her family’s horse farm. She was the first licensed horse trainer in Kenya, and training horses remained one of the constants of her life. Her first language was Swahili, not English, and her love for Africa was another constant in her life.
In 1936, Markham made the Atlantic crossing solo from Europe to North America, becoming the first woman to do so. She left from Abingdon, England in her Vega Gull, with the goal of New York City. Due to ice, she was forced to crash land in Nova Scotia: an abrupt end to a nevertheless successful journey. She named her autobiography (for which she is best known) West With the Night after this feat.
Markham was a free spirit and noted non-conformist. Controversy followed her all of her life, as did a string of lovers and husbands, admirers and detractors. She had three unsuccessful marriages and several lovers. Her interest in flight was influenced by a long-term affair with noted British pilot Tom Campbell Black and waned after their affair ended, although she worked for many years as a bush pilot. Controversy surrounded her writing, as well: after her divorce from third husband and writer Raoul Schumacher, he claimed he ghostwrote large portions of the book. This claim has never been successfully proven. Ernest Hemingway was one of the most notable fans of the autobiography. He was impressed with her writing, even as he was derogatory (and perhaps jealous) of her lifestyle.
Scandalous Women: The Many Lives of Beryl Markham >
Higher than sex: the riddle of aviatrix Beryl Markham >