For day 8 of our Women’s History Month celebration, we recognize: Janet Harmon Bragg!
Janet Harmon Waterford Bragg (March 24, 1907 – April 11, 1993) was an aviator, nurse, and the first African-American woman to hold a commercial pilot license. Born in Griffin, Georgia, Bragg attended Spelman Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia where she majored in nursing. After graduating, Bragg moved to Illinois where she passed the Illinois nurses’ license test, and later began working at Wilson Hospital. In 1933, Bragg enrolled in Aeronautical University ground school where she gained expertise in meteorology, aeronautics, and aircraft mechanics. Since the university did not own any planes, they could not provide flight instruction, so Bragg decided to purchase her own plane, which would later be the first of three she would acquire. A year later, in the spring of 1934, Bragg completed 35 solo hours of flight and passed the test to receive her private pilot’s license. As Bragg worked towards her pilot’s license, she wrote a weekly column in the Chicago Defender titled, “Negro Aviation,” under the byline Janet Waterford. Bragg later attended the Civilian Pilot Training Program School in Tuskegee, Alabama to obtain her commercial pilot’s license. Upon completing her written work and passing her flight test, Bragg was denied her license by a bigoted instructor. Steadfast in achieving her goal, Bragg returned to Illinois where she easily passed the test, and became the first black woman to hold a commercial pilot license.