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More than a century before the first aeroplane Georgian women were heading for the heavens in crazy, inspired contraptions that could bring death or glory and all too often, both. In 1783, humans learned how to fly with the invention of the hot air balloon. Jane Austen was eight years old when 
the ‘Balloonomania’ craze swept through eighteenth-century fashion, science and showbiz.

For a plucky kind of woman this new invention offered the sort of adventures usually reserved for men. So when there was no female freedom on the ground, they found theirs in the sky. They were the liberated stars of saucy bets, ludicrous fashions, balloon riots, death-defying experiments and fabulous feuds. The female pioneers of early flight forged personal and professional freedom through sheer courage and skill. Yet the they are all but forgotten. This is an entertaining and eye-opening talk about the sensational lost history of the lady aeronauts.

About the speaker

Sharon Wright is the author of Balloonomania Belles: Daredevil Divas Who First Took To The Sky. Her new book, The Mother of the Brontës: When Maria Met Patrick, is the first biography Maria Branwell Brontë, a contemporary of Jane Austen. Sharon is also a journalist.

You can find Sharon on Twitter @TheSharonAgency


Chawton House

Chawton, Hampshire, GU34 1SJ

01420 541010


Opening times

House, Gardens, Old Kitchen Tearoom and Parkland Pantry: 10am-4.30pm daily

Last entry to House: 3.30pm

Library: The library will be available for research on a case-by-case basis. For more information, please contact

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