A new book delves into the story of Edwardian aeronaut Edith Brookes, who died in a horrific parachute accident at Sheffield Wednesday Football Ground in 1902.
The appalling tragedy and extraordinary events that followed shine a light on the barnstorming world of the ballooning showgirls.
Newspaper reports of the day said that thousands of horrified spectators at the football ground saw 23-year-old Edith plunge to her death when her parachute failed to open after she jumped out of a hot air balloon.
A New Zealand newspaper report of the tragedy said: “The aeronaut jumped when she was at an altitude of 2,500 feet.
“The parachute opened very slightly and then turned over a little and never became inflated with air.
“Miss Brookes was seen to be turning around as if the rope was twisted.
“Everybody hoped that at the last moment Miss Brookes’s rapid descent would be checked, but the parachute never opened; and the lady dropped to the ground with a tremendous thud.
“Practically every bone in her body was fractured. The accident caused great excitement,” said the report in the Poverty By Herald
Female aeronauts were the liberated stars of saucy cartoons, ludicrous fashions, balloon riots, death-defying experiments and fabulous feuds from the 1780s to 1900s.
Yet the very first women to fly have been all but forgotten.
New research by author Sharon Wright reveals the gripping true stories of these feisty females of early flight in the century before the first aeroplane left the ground.
In her book, Balloonomania Belles, Sharon reveals the show-stopping stories of the female pioneers of balloon flight, from the have-a-go-Georgians to the irrepressible Edwardians.
More than 100 years before University of Sheffield graduate Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart women were heading for the heavens in crazy, inspired contraptions that could bring death or glory and all too often, both.
They were actresses, writers, heiresses, scientists, explorers, showgirls and suffragettes in the glorious golden age of ballooning – before war clouds and planes changed the skies forever.
Women were in the vanguard of the ‘balloonomania’ craze that took hold in the late 18th century and endured for decades.
When women suffered second-class status on the ground, they managed to join the thrilling human quest for spectacle and discovery on equal terms among the clouds.
From the first courageous ascent in 1784, women never looked back. Or down.
The book has been written by Bradford-born journalist Sharon Wright who now lives in south-west London with her family.
She has worked as a writer, editor and columnist for the Guardian, Daily Express, BBC, Disney, Glamour, Red and Take a Break.
She is also the author of critically-acclaimed plays performed in Yorkshire and London, including Friller, about Edwardian balloonist Lily Cove.
Find out more at www.sharon-wright-agency.co.uk
n Balloonomania Belles: Daredevil Divas Who First Took To The Sky is published by Barnsley firm Pen & Sword Books at £19.99. Call 01226 734267, go online at www.pen-and-sword.co.uk or email [email protected]