The Girl Parachute Jumpers of Paris: 1925

Fraulein Kathe Paulus preparing to descend in her parachute, c. 1908

Fraulein Kathe Paulus preparing to descend in her parachute, c. 1908

Girl Parachute Jumpers Risk Lives For Small Fee

Paris, Jan. 25. Spirited protests have been made here against parachute performances at aviation meetings, as they usually end in disaster.

The parachutists are frequently totally inexperienced girls recruited from the ranks of typist, milliners or chorus girls. The bait held out is $25 and “all the girls have to do is to jump out of the aeroplane when they are told, and the parachute will do the rest.”

Of course, there is a catch in it. When the impresario pays up the promised $25 has more often than not been whittled down to $5. The girls, who provide their own clothes, must be young and pretty.

One of the latest victims was a girl named Therese le Correc, who took the name of Liane d’Arcy. She had never been in an aeroplane before. She wore a pretty pink dress, a neat little hat, Louis XV heels, and silk stockings. The parachute never opened, but fell like a stone. Liane only lived a few minutes, after they picked her up. If she had lived she would have been paid $5.

Many girls have come forward to tell of their adventures in the air. One said that she was promised $25 for each performance, but she had to give the first performance free. The second time she had to drop into the sea, and the next time on land. She received $25 for the two performances, but was informed that for all subsequent performances she would be paid $5 each. The money is handed over as compensation, and thus the promoters escape the responsibility of the Employers’ Liability Act. Some months ago in the provinces a parachute act was advertised, but instead of a girl a lay figure was used, and the crowd protested vigorously, and demanded their money back.

One of these days the parachute will doubtless become a valuable asset to aviation, but in the meantime it is difficult to see what useful purpose these parachute performances serve.

Altoona [PA] Tribune 26 January 1925: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Such stories make Mrs Daffodil long to be one of those intrepid lady-pioneers of aviation. It would be eminently satisfying to soar above the clouds of Paris, happily jettisoning a cargo of impresarios supplied with rotten, inadequate, or, indeed, no parachutes at all.

The newspapers were full of stories of fatal parachute jumps and yet the brave and the foolhardy continued to hurl themselves out of aeroplanes and balloons to please the public, who were not to be fobbed off with a lay figure instead of a real girl. It must have been a good deal like to-day’s “stock-car” races, where much of the appeal lies in the potential for witnessing fiery crashes.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were also the hey-day of ladies like the intrepid Frau Paulus, pictured above, who, as the caption to the photo-gravure says, “has made sixty-five descents without serious injury,” and Miss Phoebe Fairgrave, aged 18, who set a world-record for altitude in 1921, jumping from 15,200 feet and landing unhurt in a “soft swamp.” However, Miss Fairgrave had the proper protective clothing and had chosen the profession of stunt parachutist and “wing-walker” for herself, not at the bullying behest of some despicable exploiter of young women.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



4 thoughts on “The Girl Parachute Jumpers of Paris: 1925

  1. Paul Paulus

    Interesting article. I wasn’t aware of this modern historical Paulus. I am more familiar with a few of the Paulus’ from the Roman republic during the Punic and Macedonian wars; the Roman jurist; and the general from WWII. Thanks!


    1. chriswoodyard Post author

      Many thanks for visiting. Frau Paulus is mentioned in a number of aeronautical books in English and German from about 1903-1909. Her hey-day seems to have been 1907-8. One hopes she survived to a placid retirement.
      Best Wishes,
      Mrs Daffodil


  2. Pingback: The Girl Parachute Jumpers of Paris: 1925 | Mrs Daffodil Digresses | First Night History

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