​Everything Else

Actually it's not possible to tell "everything else."  There's too much. You'll have to wait for the book. Or the screenplay I've written based on her life titled "Wings."

Above, however, you have glimpses of activities that weren't either sports- or aviation-connected.  In the Sahara, she invented metal skiis.  We take them for granted now, forgetting that in the beginning, all skiis -- snow skiis, the skiis on planes -- were made of wood. Marie saw that the wood wore down too quickly. And came up with a solution.

A certified Red Cross nurse, she studied medicine, worked as a surgical nurse in field hospitals, sometimes for over 24 hours at a crack, and invented a new surgical suture.

Her most important invention was the ambulance airplane. As both a nurse and a pilot, 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 postcard above shows her design. The story of her ambulance airplane and all that she did to promote air rescue is a book in itself. She also wrote, produced, and starred in "The Wings That Save," a documentary filmed mostly in North Africa about the livesaving benefits of air-rescue planes. Early on, she realized that planes were more than sport, more than transportation. They could save lives.

Driving a Fiat with six tires, she drove across the Sahara to become the first white woman to arrive at In-Saleh.

Two other huge parts of her life were journalism (she wrote scores of articles for many publications) and war (she fought in the front lines of WWI disguised as a man, she was a member of an Alpine group that skiied in provisions and skiied out the wounded, and she bombed an airbase, for which she earned the Croix de Guerre).

The last photo shows some of her awards and decorations, displayed in her apartment. She is the most decorated woman in the world, tied for first place with a Russian man for holding the most decorations. 

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. The only biography of her is the French- language Marie Marvingt, La Femme d’un siècle by Rosalie Maggio and Marcel Cordier.

​Watch this site for news of the forthcoming biography Strange Necessity: The Life of Marie Marvingt. Or for news of the film, Wings, or for two children's books, D Is for Daredevil and Oh, That Marie!

Marie Marvingt​​