'Mrs Sage', first lady balloonist, c 1785.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Mrs Laetitia Sage became the first English woman to fly in a hot air balloon in Vincent Lunardi's ascent of 29 June 1785. Impresed by her beauty, Lunardi asked Mrs Sage to accompany him on his flight. Unfortunately, the combined weight of Mrs Sage and the other two pasengers, George Biggin and Colonel Hastings, was too much for the balloon. Lunardi and Hastings agreed to stay behind, allowing Mrs Sage and Biggin to continue alone. Together they flew in a red, white and blue balloon from Vauxhall Gardens, over St James's Park and Piccadilly, before landing over two hours later in fields near Harrow. Mrs Sage later published her experience as England's first female aeronaut. She is shown wearing a white fur mantle, hat and half-veil, with a balloon motif in the background.