Dolly Shepherd

Edwardian trapeze and balloon artist


Dolly Shepherd was born in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England, as Elizabeth Shepherd. At the age of 16, as a waitress she overheard two men discussing the loss of a target for an act in which they shot an apple off a girl’s head; she volunteered on the spot. In 1905 she ascended on a trapeze slung below a hot-air balloon to a height of two to four-thousand feet before descending on a parachute. On one occasion both the balloon and the parachute malfunctioned, and she found herself rising to 15,000 feet. At this height, both the cold and lack of oxygen were threatening to make her lose her grip. Fortunately, the balloon returned to earth. She was not so lucky on a later occasion when she ascended with another girl whose parachute would not release, so she had to wrap her arms and legs around Shepherd so that they could descend on one parachute. The descent was too fast, and Shepherd was paralysed for several weeks. She nevertheless returned to her act and first flew again at Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Edith Maud Cook died from injuries sustained following a jump from a balloon at Coventry on 9 July 1910 when her parachute collapsed after a gust of wind blew her on to a factory roof. Shepherd had been due to make the jump but Cook had taken her place. According to BBC History magazine she liked to "go high because I had it in my head that if I had to be killed, I’d like to be killed completely: good and proper!" She recalled that on one occasion she almost landed on a steam train "That driver, he had some forethought: he blew the steam and just blew me off into a canal at Grantham." Shepherd later married, but still managed a flight with the Red Devils display team a few years before she died at the age of 96. There has now been a road named after Shepherd in the town where she first flew again (Ashby-de-la-Zouch); "Dolly Shepherd Close" is off Philip Bent Road approximately 0.6 miles due West of the town centre.
Credits to Ashby Open Gardens

Maria Montessori
Marsha P Johnson