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The World Magazine, April 11, 1909 (New York, NY)
The American Girl Whom
All Europe Is Watching
Katherine Wright, the “Silent Partner” of Orville and Wilbur
Wright, has aided in the aerial triumphs of the intrepid brothers, and
who is soon to return to America to assist by her counsel in new and
more daring enterprises.
masters of the aeroplane, those two clever and intrepid Americans who
have moved about Europe under the spotlight of an extraordinary
publicity, have had a silent partner. She is Katherine Wright, sister of
Orville and Wilbur Wright.
She has been a silent partner, but recently she
has been attracting a novel amount of attention on her own account.
“And did you really ride in it yourself?"'
asked King Alfonso, when he, in common with so many other European
notables, met her at one of the testing grounds.
She had. If she has not ridden oftener it is
not because she has not been ready and willing. She is as fearless
if not as ingenious as her brothers. Europe has been watching and
praising her as few American women have been watched and praised.
Few know what she has done. Few know how hard
she has worked to make her brothers' machine a working
accomplishment. But the Wright brothers realize it all and pay her
due tribute— hats off, then, to Miss Katherine Wright, who has ever
been the mainstay of her brothers in their many efforts to conquer
Who was it that gave them new hope when they
began to think the problem impossible? Who was it that followed the
intrepid brothers everywhere? Who was it that nursed Orville Wright
back to strength and health when the physicians had practically
given him up after that fatal accident last September, when Lieut.
Selfridge. of the United States Army Signal Corps Service lost his
life and Orville Wright all but lost his?
Sister Katherine Wright—that’s the answer.
When the news came from Fort Myer that the army
officer had been killed and Orville Wright dangerously injured, Miss
Wright gave up her position as teacher in the Dayton (O.) High
School and started at once for Washington.
“It is dubious,” said the army surgeon in
attendance upon Orville Wright, "whether the aeroplane inventor
would have survived his injuries had it not been for the presence
and loving care of his sister.”
Miss Wright is a typical American
girl—self-reliant but unassuming. She would far rather talk about
the successes that her brothers have achieved than say a word about
herself. She knows all the difficulties which they have had to
encounter—these make up her life story.
She has never made a full flight herself—the
brothers refuse to take her on a real trip, but she knows everything
about the working of their machines, and she has her own theories
about the wrecking of the aeroplane which killed Lieut. Selfridge
and nearly killed her brother.
"We have reached the conclusion,” she will tell
you, "that one of the wires supporting the rudder broke loose and
became entangled in the propeller. I don't see that anything else
could have happened."
Though Miss Wright has never taken a real
flight in any of her brothers' aeroplanes, she has been up in a
balloon. With her two brothers at Pau she took a trip up into the
air and came down without accident. It is fairly safe to assume that
she will be the first woman to make a flight in an aeroplane.
Miss Wright began to take an interest in the
navigation of the air when her talented brothers were making- their
first experiments in their bicycle repair shop in Dayton. O.
Sometimes when the boys were sick or tired out she used to read to
them; books on aeronautics and aviation were their favorites and she
learned with them as she read.
Orville Wright fell ill some years ago, and it
wan his sister's duty to attend him. Wilbur Wright was at the
bedside most of the time, too—as much of the time as he could spare
from the bicycle shop.
“When I get well,” said Orville, “why don't we
try to fly? Somebody is going to invent a machine that will fly; why
shouldn't it be our machine?'”
“Yes, why not” echoed Miss Wright, and then and
there the Wright Brothers made up their minds to essay the air with
What they have done is history.
The young amateurs started with a clumsy
apparatus that could do but little. Then they began to get the real
ideas for a machine heavier than air—not a balloon—which could
really fly. Their first models were tied to a rope fastened to a
pole, and the machines flew round and round as birds might fly. Then
they tried to fly themselves.
The young amateurs didn't fly at their first
effort nor at their second or their third, and there were accidents
regularly. And it was the sister who attended them when they were
laid up in bed with their hurts.
"I think I know," Miss Wright has said to her
friends, "every mistake and every success that the boys have made.
If there are some little details which they cannot recall-that is my
business. I know every one who has called at the shop in Dayton.
One of my duties is to guard my brothers' interests."
Like her two brothers. Miss Wright is a
persistent worker. From the moment she arrived at the hospital at
Fort Meyer, the United States Army post at Washington, there was a
different tone to the condition of Orville Wright. She got "on the
job" at once, and soon the injured aeroplanist began to mend.
In spite of all the inconveniences, Miss Wright
stayed at the army hospital day and night, and nothing was done
without her sanction.
"Orville has often taken care of me when I was
sick," said she. 'Why shouldn't I take care of him? I am getting my
chance to return what he did for me—why not? But Wilbur ought to be
here. He is the ideal nurse."
Just then Wilbur Wright was showing the French
Government how flights should be made—at LeMans—and the news of
what he was doing was told daily to Orville Wright, which made much
for his ultimate recovery, badly injured as he was.
Orville Wright comes back to Fort Myer in May
to make more flights in official trials for the United States
Government. Miss Wright will be there, with him. She doesn't want
him to be hurt, and she is going to see that he isn't, if she can
"You see," she will tell you, "when the boys
first started with their experiments we didn't think they really
meant to make flights. For a long time, when we found out what they
actually meant to do, we were very much worried. But we are used to
it now. I have every confidence in the success of my brothers'
machine, and I know that in the end they will perfect it."
Miss Wright didn't say so, but everybody
interested in the flying machine knows that she has been the real
one to keep up her brothers in spite of so many setbacks. Her
devotion to Orville and Wilbur has made her warm friends wherever
she has gone.
Miss Wright is petite, dark and good-looking.
She looks the sister of her brothers. Her manner is most attractive.
Like most other American girls, the aviators' sister has very
decided views of her own. Politics Interests her exceedingly.
When Mr. Taft was running for the Presidency
Miss Wright made every effort to get her injured brother back to
Dayton to vote for the man from Cincinnati.
The Wright family has always lived in Dayton,
home of their ancestors. One of them was the first white woman to
settle where Dayton now stands. The father of the family was
formerly a bishop in the United Brethren Church. He is still living
and watches with keen interest the work in the world which his sons
are doing; even as much so as his daughter, Miss Katherine. Another
brother, who lives in Dayton too, completes the family.
Altogether it is a remarkable family, and Miss
Katherine is not by any means the least remarkable member.