Amelia Earhart: Quotes, Facts & Biography

Instructor: Matthew Hill
Amelia Earhart was a famed aviator and advocate for female pilots. She was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic and she mysteriously died in a plane crash while trying to fly around the world.

An Aviator is Born

The impact of Amelia Earhart on aviation history cannot be underestimated. Although she was not the first female aviator, she was certainly the most renowned in her era. Her disappearance over the Pacific remains one of the greatest aviation mysteries of the 20th century. Amelia Earhart was born in Atkinson, Kansas in July 1897. Her parents had constant financial problems, and she and her sister were mostly raised by her maternal-grandparents who were wealthy. Her early education was a mixture of home schooling, private schools, and public school. After graduating high school in 1915, she attended a girl's finishing school in Philadelphia for a while, before leaving early to work in a Canadian military hospital during the First World War. Her life suddenly changed in December 1920 when she attended an air show.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

First Flight

At an air show in Long Beach, California, in December 1920, she rode in an airplane for the first time and was immediately hooked. At a local airfield, she took flying lessons under another famous female aviator, Anita 'Neta' Snook, and eventually earned her pilot license. In fact, Earhart became so hooked on flying, that she bought her own plane! Although she was a pre-med student for a while at Columbia University, her real passion remained flying.

Atlantic Flight and Beyond

In 1928, publicist George Palmer Putnam, who had published the memoir of Charles Lindbergh, and who later married Earhart in 1931, wanted to promote the idea of a female aviator making the same journey across the Atlantic as Lindbergh and he recruited Earhart. Earhart was accompanied by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, but she did not pilot the plane on this historic flight in June 1928. Nevertheless, she made history, was nicknamed 'Lady Lindy,' and was treated to a White House reception by President Calvin Coolidge.

L-R, Anita Snook and Amelia Earhart
Snook and Earhart

Earhart did not rest content, but topped this collaborative flight in May 1932 with a solo flight of her own across the Atlantic. Though she was supposed to fly from Newfoundland to Paris, she was forced to land in Ireland due to weather issues. Nevertheless, the flight was successful.

In recognition, she was awarded the gold medal from the National Geographic Society which was presented to her by President Herbert Hoover and the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, which was the first for a woman. Her passion for flying was partly wrapped up in its aesthetic appeal. She once stated: ''I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know is or not, is the esthetic appeal of flying.''

Aviation Records

In 1929, a group of female pilots gathered to create an organization to support and promote female aviators. In 1931, the charter group was finally organized and elected Earhart as their first president. The group's name, Ninety-Nines, is derived from their 99 charter members. In addition to this honor, Earhart also became a prominent speaker, and in 1933, she even launched Amelia Earhart Fashions, a clothing line. Clearly, Earhart was not simply an aviator, but also a celebrity.

Like an unstoppable force, Earhart became an air warrior and pushed herself for greater and greater feats. She set several records in distance, altitude, and speed. To cite some examples, in 1931, she became the first to fly the small autogiro aircraft across the entire U.S. and back. In 1935, she became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California and the first to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico. As incredible as these feats were, her greatest - and most tragic flight - was yet to come.

L-R, Amelia Earhart and George Putnam
Earhart and Putman

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