Aviation Pioneers

Mabel Bell: An Unknown Supporter of Aviation

Aviation industry surely has a huge place in our lives, no one can deny this fact. Air travel not only directly improves our lives by making it extremely fast for us to travel from one place to another, but it also affects our lives positively in ways that are not readily apparent. These alone make aviation interesting to many people, including Mabel Bell, an American businesswoman and the wife of the esteemed inventor and engineer Alexander Graham Bell.

mabel bell
source: agbfoundation.ca

The fascinating nature of aviation made it very interesting for many curious people through its history and support to the industry came from surprising places. In this article we are going to discuss the life of one of these prominent champions of this incredible passion that helped the industry go forward. So, without further ado let’s dive in and learn more about Mabel Bell.

Life of Mabel Bell

Bell was born as Mabel Gardiner Hubbard on the 25th of November, 1857 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. She was left entirely deaf after getting sick with a serious case of scarlet fever when she was only five years old. Along with this, because her inner ear was damaged due to the disease, Mabel also had to deal with a balance disorder all her life.

Her disability inspired her father, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, to start the first oral school for the deaf in the US and provide education for children with hearing disabilities. With the help of her supportive parents and thanks to her determined nature, Mabel learned to speak and read lips in not only English but also other languages.

mabel bell
source: agbfoundation.ca

While Alexander Graham Bell was teaching at his school for the deaf, Mabel first became one of his students and later his partner. They got married on the 11th of July 1877 when Mabel was 19 and Graham Bell was 30. She took her married name “Mabel Bell” and they had four children together.

After her husband died in 1922, Mabel Bell started losing her sight and her daughters had to look after her until her death in the 3rd of January 1923 at the age of 65 due to pancreatic cancer. Mabel Bell’s ashes were buried in her husband’s grave and today they rest together in peace.

In 1923, Mabel Bell was named as a National Historic Person by the Canadian government due to her founding many social and educational institutions as well as the Aerial Experiment Association, which we will discuss in the next part.

Mabel Bell’s Contributions to Aeronautical Research

Evident from her ability to learn to speak and read lips in multiple languages despite not being able to hear, Mabel Bell was a very intelligent person and she also saw a great potential in aviation industry. Although she wanted to stay in the background, she still wanted to contribute to the future of this promising industry.

In 1907, she sold some of her property for $35,000 (more than $1,000,000 in 2021 dollars) and gave the money to her husband and his four business partners to start the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), becoming aviation’s first sponsor. Following meticulous scientific research and experiments, they built an aircraft with never-before-seen technological innovations such as lateral control with the use of ailerons.


Anon. (n.d.), Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, Wikipedia, Retrieved 10 June 2021

< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabel_Gardiner_Hubbard >

Dorothy Harley Eber, “HUBBARD, MABEL GARDINER (Bell),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, Retrieved 10 June 2021

< http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hubbard_mabel_gardiner_15E.html >

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