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Happy International Women’s Day 2020


This year we wanted to pay tribute to some of the incredible women who were pioneers in travel. It’s these women and their incredible achievements, often in the face of adversity, who paved the way for women in the travel industry today.

Bertha Benz

1849 – 1944

A pioneer in the automotive industry, Bertha was the first person – not just woman – to go on a recorded cross-country roadtrip on the 5th August in 1888. Over her 65 mile journey, she rigorously tested the patent Motorwagen – invented by her husband Carl Benz – and during her journey even invented brake pads! At a time when scientists thought that women’s brains were unable to absorb and process as much information as men’s brains, Benz was determined to prove them wrong. On her 95th birthday she was proclaimed an honorary senator by the Technical University of Karlsruhe, as she was never allowed to study as a young woman.

Amelia Earhart

1897 – 1937

The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, Amelia Earhart was also the first female passenger to cross the Atlantic by plane in 1928. A true pioneer in aviation, she received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross award for her achievements. Earhart later went on to become a member of the National Woman’s Party and was one of the first supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment – it’s safe to say she was instrumental in paving the way for women in travel.

Bessie Coleman

1892 – 1926

The first black woman to earn a pilot’s license. Bessie Coleman was an American aviator who was denied entry to flying schools in the United States. Determined to not be deterred by these initial setbacks, Coleman taught herself French and then moved to France, where she earned her Pilot’s license in just 7 months.  She went on to specialise in performing aerial tricks, and became the first African American woman to stage a public flight in America. A true inspiration, proving that nothing is impossible if you have determination.

Amy Johnson

1903 – 1941

In 1930 Johnson achieved worldwide recognition as the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia. In recognition of this incredible achievement, she received a CBE at George V’s 1930 Birthday Honours list. A determined Pilot, she went on to set further records, setting a solo record for the flight from London to Cape Town, and flying with co-Pilot Jack Humphreys to become the first people to fly from London to Moscow in one day, then continuing onto Tokyo setting a record time for a flight from Britain to Japan. In 1940 Johnson supported the RAF in the Second World War, working transporting aircraft around the country.

Valentina Tereshkova

1937 – Present

Tereshkova was not only the first woman in space, but also the youngest woman to have flown in space, and lastly, the only woman to have been to space on a solo mission. Quite the accomplishment! In 1963 she set off on her solo mission on the Vostok 6, where she orbited the Earth 48 times, spending almost three days in space. 

Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz

1936 – Present

The first woman to sail around the world solo, Krystyna set off from the Canary Islands on 28th March 1976 and returned on the 21st April 1978 after covering 31,666 nautical miles around the globe.  After her return, she returned to her home country of Poland and was awarded Gdansk’s Citizen of the Year award.

“I’m not afraid of what I don’t know, although normal people are said to have it the other way around. I didn’t know how one sails around the world, so I wasn’t afraid of it. After I set out, I began to feel true freedom. This is what it was like: I only did what I wanted to, and sometimes what I was supposed to. There were no limitations. At no other place and at no other time did I feel so free.”

How did they inspire the next generation of leaders in travel?


Discover our pioneering team

With a CEO who has achieved the accolade of ‘first female Chair of the Business Travel Association (BTA), we at Gray Dawes Group are driven by pioneers from the top. Meet our diverse and experienced Senior Leadership Team below.