Jackie Cochran never knew her birth family. She moved from place to place with her foster family as they searched for work. In her eighth year, the moved to Columbus, Georgia, and Jackie was put to work in a cotton mill earning six cents per hour. Working twelve hours a day, she saved enough money to buy her first pair of shoes. Determined to escape the brutal condition of her youth, she apprenticed herself as a hairdresser at age eleven. By age fourteen, she had fully trained herself, and from a telephone book selected her name, Jacqueline Cochran. Moving to New York, she became an established and successful business woman by age nineteen. Her future husband, millionaire Floyd Oldham, was first to suggest she learn to fly. Accepting the dare, she obtained her pilot's license in 1932 after only three weeks of instruction. From that time forward, the sky was home for Jackie. In 1934, she flew in the London to Melbourne race; she became the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Race in 1935. She placed third in 1937 and won the Bendix in 1938 against a field of male pilots, and went on to set a Transcontinental speed record. In 1939-40, she set a women's altitude record, won the New York-Miami race, and set open-class records. During World War II, she was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic, served with the British Air Transport Auxiliary, organized and led the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASP) program, served as consultant on the General Staff of the Army Air Corps, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. She placed second in 1946 and third in 1948 in the Bendix. Commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the USAF Reserve in 1948, she received the Harmon Trophy in 1950 as the "Aviatrix of the Decade", became the first woman to exceed the speed of sound, and was awarded the F.A.I. Gold Medal in 1953. She served as President of the F.A.I. and the National Aeronautical Association. She set nine world jet records in 1961, became the first woman to fly a jet across the Atlantic, setting sixty-nine records and became Consultant to NASA in 1963. Then in 1964, she set three more world jet speed records, one in excess of MACH Two. At the time of her death, she held more speed, altitude, and distance records that any other pilot, male or female, in aviation history, and had earned the respect and admiration of leaders around the world.
Jacqueline Cochran was enshrined on November 7, 1992, in recognition of her great courage, determination, achievements, and contributions to the field of Aviation.