Marie Marvingt


​Everything Else



Actually, it's not possible to tell "everything else." There's too much. You'll have to read the book. Or see the movie. (Producers? I have a screenplay based on her life.)
 
In addition to her sports- or aviation-related activities, Marie was a much-published journalist, providing on-the-scene and behind-the-scene accounts to a number of French (and even British) newspapers.
 
A certified Red Cross nurse, she studied medicine, worked as a surgical nurse in field hospitals, sometimes for over 24 hours at a time. She also co-invented a new surgical suture, and established a home for wounded aviators.


Marie was actively involved in both world wars. During World War I, in addition to her nursing, she fought in the front lines disguised as a man; she was the first female bomber in history; a member of an Alpine military troop, she skied in provisions and skied out the wounded. For her contributions, she was awarded the Croix de Guerre. During World War II, she again donned her nurse cap, but was also a Resistance hero for her work against the Occupier.


In the Sahara, she invented metal skiis. We take them for granted now, but in the beginning all skiis -- snow skiis, skiis on planes -- were made of wood. Marie was unhappy that the wood wore down too quickly. She came up with a solution.
 
Marie's most important invention was the ambulance airplane. As both a pilot and a nurse, she quickly saw the necessity of flying help to the injured, and flying the injured to hospitals. As early as 1909 she drew up plans for her ambulance airplane and took them to the Ministry of War. They filed her plans. The end. The story of her ambulance airplane and the forty years she spent promoting air rescue is a book in itself. She also wrote, produced and starred in a documentary about the life-saving benefits of air ambulances. She was one of the first to understand that planes were more than sport, more than transport. They could save lives.
 
As a result of her multiple contributions and accomplishments, Marie Marvingt is the most decorated person (not woman, person) in the world.  
The last photo above displays some of her awards and decorations, as she had them in her apartment. 


​At the time of her death, popular Parisian radio host Jean Nocher said to his listeners, "I’ve got a riddle for you, for all you champions of radio and television games, for all you history buffs, for all you teachers who want to hold up to our youth the best examples of contemporary heroism."

He then asked if his listeners could identify by name "incontestably the greatest female aviation pioneer who has just died in total obscurity and poverty after having enjoyed one of the most brilliant, the most exceptional careers of any woman in history."

Nocher went on to give clues, telling his listeners that at the height of her popularity she was more famous than the astronauts of the early 1960s. He listed many of her accomplishments and awards and added that she was the most eloquent speaker he’d ever had the good fortune to meet. "Who among you remembers her?" he asked. "Do historians remember her? Sociologists? Who could answer my question, except for a few people from Lorraine or the nurses in the hospital who received, in the greatest silence, her last sigh?"

He challenged his audience: "Admit that it’s intriguing, engrossing, and even fascinating. Who was she? Is there one young French person out of ten thousand who could tell me her name? Try it for yourself. Ask people you know if they remember her. It’s a cruel game, but it will tell you a great deal about today’s society."

After he finally revealed her name, spelling it carefully, Nocher added, "Don’t you find it inconceivable that we have responded with silence and ingratitude to this heroine who brought so much honor to her country and to her sex?"

He suggested that a few little streets here and there in France be named after her. "That’s not asking much, is it? I’m not proposing that we rename one of our great monuments after her. It appears that would be very expensive. But doesn’t it cost us more, in the long run, to forget such a marvelous role model as Marie Marvingt?"


Today, her name can be found on schools, buildings, streets, awards, and air clubs. A French postage stamp with her picture was issued in her honor, she was named to the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, and the Marie Marvingt International Club actively works to sustain her legacy.