French women’s are known for their beauty and elegance, but Marie Marvingt was a beauty with purpose. This remarkable French lady was a little-known name outside of France for a long time. Yet her contributions in the field of medical care remain outstanding. Her achievements and contributions were revealed to the world only after two decades of her death!
Marie Marvingt began her life’s journey, training herself in different types of sports activities including swimming, hockey, speed skating, water polo, bobsledding, football, boxing, fencing, shooting, martial arts, tennis, mountaineering, golf and horseback riding. It was her father, Felix, who persuaded and supported her to pursue sports.
Needless to say, she became the greatest sportswoman in France and later on played a very crucial role in the promotion of aero-medical services. Once she conquered everything on land she went on to conquer the skies. She became a record-breaking balloonist and an ultimate aviator.
Her foray into aero-medical evacuation happened when she joined the armed forces (disguised as a man) to fight the world wars, but she was eventually caught. However, she managed to get flying lessons and soon became the first woman to become a bomber flight.
And somewhere in between she also trained herself as a surgical nurse to offer her services to wounded soldiers. She is the first certified flight nurse and played a key role in the development of air ambulance services.
Although she has proposed the idea of air ambulances several times to various authorities no one took it seriously or even considered it. But she was determined; she co-founded a medical aviation organization known as Les Amies de l’Aviation Sanitaire and delivered over 6000 lectures on the topic of 24 hours air ambulance services. This organization offered flight medical training to doctors, nurses and pilots to handle rescue operations and medical emergencies using an aircraft.
And her persistence finally paid off in 1934 when the government of France sanctioned her proposal for establishment of air ambulance in Morocco. Finally developing air ambulance service, she also developed metal skies to help aero planes land on sand. And for her efforts in medical aviation, she was awarded the Medal of Peace of Morocco by the Moroccan government. Seeing the flight of wounded soldiers during World War II, Marie Marvingt set up a centre for treating them by making use of her surgical nursing skills.
On her 80th birthday, she was flown in an American fighter jet over Nancy by an Air Force officer. And she is the only octogenarian to have trained as a helicopter pilot but she didn’t earn pilot’s license. She surprised the world even more, when she cycled from Nancy to Paris at the age of 86, covering a distance of 349Km. Apart from swimming, running and flying, she also took to arts and literature. She wrote poetry and fiction under the name Myriel.
She was one of the top achievers and had received over 34 medals for her contributions to medical aviation. Today, several gyms, streets, flying clubs and schools are named after this great woman. Marie was and continues to be an inspiration for everyone.