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  • Karen Frost

Introducing the Lady Adventurers: Eliza Law

The next member of the Lady Adventurers Club is Eliza Law.

Eliza was born 1882 on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, to former slaves who moved north from Mississippi after the Civil War. Law was one of eight children. Her mother worked as a domestic servant and her father was a rail car porter for the Pullman Company, making them upwardly mobile. After attending Wilberforce University (a co-ed black college in Ohio), she returned to Chicago and did various odd jobs before she landed a writer position in 1908 with The Chicago Conservator, the oldest African-American newspaper in the city. The paper went out of business in 1914, after which she worked freelance.

During the final months of WWI, she and other black women sailed to France on behalf of the YMCA to serve the 200,000 segregated black American troops stationed there. After the war, she stayed in France, finding there were more opportunities there for her than existed in the States. In early 1919, she traveled across Morocco on horseback. In 1921, she received her pilot’s license from the Aero-Club of France. Shortly thereafter, she returned to the US and joined the Gates Flying Circus as a barnstormer, flying a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” biplane.

Eliza is no-nonsense and savvy. Through hard work and determination, she's seen more of the world and done more things than many people would in a lifetime, but she's keenly aware of the danger that constantly surrounds her in a racist, colonial world. As someone who has lived much of her life independent and guarded, she is slow to make friends, but she will defend and protect the women around her.

The real life inspiration for Eliza is Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold a pilot license. The visual inspiration for Eliza is a slightly younger Queen Latifah, who finally came out publicly in 2021, with a bob.

(not a JN-4 Jenny)

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