Amelia Earhart was a girl born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897. Today she is mostly known as the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and mysteriously disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Fondly known as Lady Lindy, Amelia was the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license.
Much of her early childhood Amelia spent with her sister Muriel at the house of her maternal grandparents. There they sought out adventures, exploring the neighborhood, climbing trees, hunting for rats, and taking breathtaking rides on Amelia’s sled.
In 1915, her mother separated once again from her father, and moved Amelia and her sister to Chicago to live with friends. While there, Amelia attended Hyde Park High School, where she excelled in chemistry. After graduation, Amelia Earhart spent a Christmas vacation visiting her sister in Toronto, Canada. After seeing wounded soldiers returning from World War I, she volunteered as a nurse’s aide for the Red Cross. Earhart came to know many wounded pilots. She developed a strong admiration for aviators. In 1919, Earhart enrolled in medical studies at Columbia University.
At a Long Beach air show in 1920, Amelia Earhart took a plane ride that transformed her life. It was only 10 minutes, but when she landed she knew she had to learn to fly. Working at a variety of jobs, from photographer to truck driver, she earned enough money to take flying lessons from pioneer female aviator Anita “Neta” Snook. An year later Amelia purchased a second-hand Kinner Airster biplane painted bright yellow. She nicknamed it “The Canary” and set out to make a name for herself in aviation.With it she flew to 14,000 feet the world altitude record for female pilots on October 22, 1922 and became the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license by the world governing body for aeronautics, The Federation Aeronautique.
Times became hard and by 1924, the money had run out and she sold her plane. In 1925 she again enrolled in Columbia University, but was forced to abandon her studies due to limited finances. Earhart found employment first as a teacher, then as a social worker. Earhart gradually got back into aviation in 1927, becoming a member of the American Aeronautical Society’s Boston chapter. She also invested a small amount of money in the Dennison Airport in Massachusetts, acted as a sales representative for Kinner airplanes in the Boston area. As she wrote articles promoting flying in the local newspaper, she began to develop a following as a local celebrity.
After Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight from New York to Paris in May 1927, interest grew for having a woman fly across the Atlantic. In April 1928, Amelia Earhart was selected to be the first woman on a transatlantic flight as a passenger. Those times were too unsecure and such a flight was too dangerous for a woman to conduct herself.
On June 17, 1928 a flight took off from Trespassey Harbor, Newfoundland for Burry Point, Wales and took 20 hours and 40 minutes. On the board were Amelia Earhart, pilot Wilmer “Bill” Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis E. “Slim” Gordon. The flight became a sensation although Amelia was not a pilot. Earhart later confided that she felt she “was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes. Maybe someday I’ll try it alone.”
Amelia set her sights on establishing herself as a respected aviator. Shortly after returning from her 1928 transatlantic flight, she set off on a successful solo flight across North America.
On May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, in a nearly 15-hour voyage from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to Culmore, Northern Ireland.
Earhart took off in the morning from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, with that day’s copy of the local newspaper to confirm the date of the flight. Almost immediately, the flight ran into difficulty as she encountered thick clouds and ice on the wings. After about 12 hours the conditions got worse, and the plane began to experience mechanical difficulties. She knew she wasn’t going to make it to Paris, so she started looking for a new place to land. She found a pasture just outside the small village of Culmore, in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and successfully landed. Earhart’s flight established her as an international hero. As a result, she won many honors, including the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society, presented by President Hoover; the Distinguished Flying Cross from the U.S. Congress; and the Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French government.
Amelia Earhart made a solo trip from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California, establishing her as the first womanas well as the first person to fly both across the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In April 1935, she flew solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and a month later she flew from Mexico City to New York. Between 1930 and 1935, Amelia Earhart set seven women’s speed and distance aviation records in a variety of aircraft. In 1935, Earhart joined the faculty at Purdue University as a female career consultant and technical advisor to the Department of Aeronautics, and she began to contemplate one last fight to circle the world. It is the last one.
Amelia Earhart possessed a shy, charismatic appeal that belied her determination and ambition. In her passion for flying, she amassed a number of distance and altitude world records. She dedicated much of her life to prove that women could excel in their chosen professions just like men and have equal value. This all contributed to her wide appeal and international celebrity.
Earhart’s life and career have been celebrated for the past several decades on “Amelia Earhart Day,” which is held annually on July 24 her birthday in 1897. Earhart would have celebrated her 121st birthday on July 24, 2018.