Amelia Earhart is widely regarded to be one of the most famous pilots in history. Not only did she break a number of records in her career as an aviator, but she sought to diffuse social stigmas about appropriate career paths for women.
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 to parents Edwin and Amy. With her sister Amy, she sought out childhood adventures such as exploring the neighborhood, climbing trees, and hunting rats. Early on, Amelia demonstrated an inclination for what many of the time, and perhaps even now, would regard as “tomyboyish.”
Amelia also developed her loved of aviation early on, when in 1920, she enjoyed her first plane ride at an air show in Los Angeles. Although it lasted a mere 10 minutes, she knew that she’d found her life’s mission. Amelia worked a variety of odd jobs from that day forward, in order to scrape together the money to learn to fly; she took lessons from famed pioneer female aviator, Anita “Neta” Snook.
Not long after, in the summer of 1921, Amelia bought her first airplane. A yellow second-hand Kinner Airster biplane she dubbed “The Canary.” The following year, she broke her first record, climbing to an altitude of 14,000 feet, the highest altitude reached by any woman in the world. In 1923, Amelia was the 16th woman in the world to receive her pilot’s license, issued by the world governing body for aeronautics, The Federation Aeronautique.
Throughout this period, Amelia subsisted primarily on her inheritance money from her grandmother. However, when it ran out, she was forced to take more odd jobs while she found her financial footing. Fate eventually worked in her favor when, as a social worker at the time, her name was suggested to be the first female passenger of the famous pilot, Charles Lindbergh. After the successful completion of her flight (as passenger) across the Atlantic, she was dubbed “Little Lindy,” after the nickname Lindbergh himself bore, “Lucky Lindy.”
Though Earhart continued to break records and her fame soared as a celebrity, she was never entirely satisfied. Her final flight, and another attempt at increased notoriety, came in the form of an attempted circumnavigation of the world via the equator. In this endeavour, she teamed up with Fred Noonan, who had considerable experience in both marine and flight navigation.
It is suggested that the flight was doomed from the start. After a series of issues in the beginning, Earhart and Noonan finally departed from Oakland to Miami, and then from Miami (amid much fanfare) toward Central and South America, turning east for Africa. From there, the plane crossed the Indian Ocean and finally touched down in Lae, New Guinea, on June 29, 1937. About 22,000 miles of the journey had been completed. The remaining 7,000 miles would take place over the Pacific.
Unfortunately for both Earhart and Noonan, their ultimate goal would never be realized. A number of reasons have been cited and theorized regarding the last leg of this journey, but ultimately they never reached their final destination. It is suspected that the two ran out of fuel and had to ditch the plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Their remains were never recovered, and their demise is still contemplated and researched to this day.
Though Amelia may have never seen her biggest aviatic dream come to fruition, there is no doubt that she was a strong and effective personality not only in aviation, but as an advocate for women. Specifically, women who wanted to pursue careers and paths traditionally thought only acceptable for men. She cut her hair short and dressed in trousers rather than dresses, to prove that a woman could do anything a man could do, and as a pioneer in aviation, she proved herself to be right. This women’s history month, we salute Amelia Earhart for her courage and her willingness to defy standard conventions and pursue her dreams of becoming a pilot.