Margaret Graham (balloonist)

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Margaret Graham (c. 1804 – c. 1880),[1] formerly Margaret Watson, was the first British woman to make a solo balloon flight, a feat which she accomplished in 1826.[2]

She was born in Walcot, Bath, and married the pioneer balloonist George Graham, with whom she first flew on 2 June 1824, when he made an ascent from White Conduit Gardens in Islington, London.[2] They had three daughters, who would later also make balloon flights with her from about 1850 onwards.[3]

On 28 June 1826, a flight was planned in which Mrs Graham and a woman named Jane Stocks were due to ascend from White Conduit Gardens.[4] However, Jane Stocks did not in the end go with her, and this was the first solo flight by a British female pilot.[2] Margaret's career as a balloonist lasted for more than thirty years in total.[5]

In 1827, George Graham was taken to court for debt, and was in custody for several months before the case was heard. Margaret Graham testified on his behalf, stating that the cost of making the balloon far exceeded the price for which her husband's creditor, a Mr Brooker, proposed to sell it, and also claiming that the balloon was no longer Graham's property.[6]

On 7 August 1850, a balloon in which Mrs Graham was travelling caught fire following its descent near Edmonton,[7] London, but she survived the accident.[8] In the same year, she made the first night-time ascent in a balloon that had been undertaken by a woman, in a balloon launched from Vauxhall Gardens.[9] In 1851, she and her husband made a commemorative flight during the Great Exhibition.[10]


  1. ^ "Graham, Margaret". Who's Who of Ballooning. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Mark Davies (2015). King of All Balloons. Amberley. pp. 280–282. ISBN 9781445653082.
  3. ^ Charles Paul May (1962). Women in aeronautics. Nelson.
  4. ^ "Mrs. Graham". The Sydney Monitor. XII (996). New South Wales, Australia. 15 February 1837. p. 4 (EVENING). Retrieved 2 December 2018 – via National Library of Australia. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Gavin Stamp (1 December 2013). Anti-Ugly: Excursions in English Architecture and Design. Aurum Press. pp. 225–. ISBN 978-1-78131-123-3.
  6. ^ S.L. Kotar; J.E. Gessler (20 December 2010). Ballooning: A History, 1782-1900. McFarland. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-0-7864-4941-5.
  7. ^ "Balloon Ascents". Victorian London. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  8. ^ "'Mrs Graham's Balloon on Fire', c 1850". Science and Society. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Balloons". Vauxhall History. 28 January 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Balloon ascent from the Piece Hall". Halifax Courier. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2018.