Jessica Swift (left) in her centenarian years.
|Birth:||17 September 1871|
Middlebury, Vermont, United States
|Death:||2 January 1982|
Florida, United States
|Age:||110 years, 107 days|
Jessica Swift (née Stewart; 17 September 1871 – 2 January 1982) was a American woman known for her longevity and for being recognized by Guinness World Records in 1981 as the oldest living person to be a passenger on a plane at age 110. Her age is verified by the Gerontology Research Group (GRG). She holds the record as the oldest validated person ever born in the state of Vermont.
Jessica was born in Middlebury, Addison County, Vermont, as "Anna Jessica Stewart" into an influential family. She had a fraternal twin, Robert, but he was sickly and died in 1880. Overall, she had four siblings. Her uncle owned thousands of acres of land in the state of Vermont. Her father was Governor, Congressman and Senator John Stewart. Jessica used to be his hostess since her mother was sick and confined to a wheelchair back in Vermont. Her father's work sometimes brought them to Europe, where she learned to play the piano and practiced singing.
When she was in her 20s, she began a relationship with a poor reverend named Joseph Sylvester. Due to him being from a lower social class, her father didn’t approve of this. She defied him by continuing to meet him occasionally. In 1908, when Sylvester was dying, she ran away from home to take care of him for a year. They married on 16 October 1908. Joseph Sylvester died the subsequent year on 15 May 1909.
Jessica married businessman Charles Swift on 3 April 1913, and the couple travelled to various countries including The Philippines. Charles Swift died in June 1929, leaving her widowed for the second time.
She returned to Middlebury ten years later and became the area’s philantropist. At the age of 109, she cut the ribbon for the reopening of Pulp Mill Covered Bridge in 1980. The year after, she flew as a passenger in an aeroplane at 110 years old, an accomplishment that was noted by Guinness World Records (GWR). Swift was the first recorded supercentenarian person to fly in a commercial aircraft and is one of only two people to have done so to this day. The second person was Charlotte Hughes of the United Kingdom, who flew to New York City as part of her one-hundred and tenth birthday celebrations in 1987. Unlike Swift though, this trip to New York was Hughes' first ever time travelling abroad.
Jessica Swift died in Florida on 2 January 1982 at the age of 110 years, 107 days. She is believed to be the only supercentenarian born in Vermont, which is one of the least populated states in the United States.
- Bennington Banner 14 October 1975
- Nashua Telegraph 19 December 1980
- Toledo Blade 4 January 1982
- Aiken Standard 23 July 1986
- Find A Grave
- Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History
- Swift House Inn