Amelia Earhart famously flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean as the first female aviator. She advocated for women’s rights through her help in creating the female pilot organization, The Ninety-Nines. Her 1937 attempt to circumnavigate the world led to her disappearance and national intrigue regarding what happened to Amelia Earhart since her plane was never found.
Early Life and Education of Amelia EarhartAmelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas to parent’s Samuel “Edwin” Stanton Earhart and Amelia “Amy” Otis. The family lived comfortably thanks to Alfred Gideon Otis, her maternal grandfather, the president of Atchison Savings Bank and former federal judge. She grew up with one sister, Grace Muriel Earhart.
Earhart’s sinus issues caused her hospitalization several times, yet this did not prevent her from proceeding.
Amelia Earhart encountered her first plane in 1908 at the Iowa State Fair after her father moved to Des Moines. In 1909, she enrolled into her first public school after being homeschooled for several years.
Earhat's grandmother died in 1914 and she left the Earhart sisters a small fortune in personal trusts. Earhart moved through several schools and graduated in 1916 from Hyde Park High School. In 1917, Amelia Earhart went to Toronto to visit her sister and stayed. The following year she contracted the Spanish flu. It resulted in chronic sinusitis exacerbated by her flying career.
Aviation CareerOn December 28, 1920, Amelia Earhart and her father visited Frank Hawks in Long Beach for her first plane ride. Earhart began flying lessons with Anita “Neta” Snook on January 3, 1921, at Kinner Field through saving and financial assistance from her mother. After six months of lessons, Earhart bought a used yellow Kinner Airster biplane she called “The Canary.” She set a world record for female aviators on October 22, 1922, flying to 14,000 feet. She then became the 16th woman to receive a pilot’s license on May 15, 1923.
Amelia challenged a field dominated by males.
In 1924, Amelia Earhart sold her old Kinner and purchased a new two-person, yellow Kissel “Speedster,” named the “Yellow Peril.” She and her mother flew from California to Boston, Massachusetts. Earhart attempted yet another procedure in Boston to correct her sinus issues and, finally, this one partially succeeded. She settled in Medford, Massachusetts in 1925, where she became vice president of Boston’s American Aeronautical Society, flew Dennison airport’s first flight in 1927, and wrote newspaper columns encouraging flying and the idea of an organization for female pilots.
Her fame increased greatly when Amy Phipps Guest decided to sponsor a woman to cross the Atlantic by plane. Although Wilmer Stultz flew the plane on June 17, 1928, the experience brought Amelia Earhart worldwide recognition. In 1929, she supported the creation of passenger travel with Charles Limburg to represent both Transcontinental Air Transport and National Airways.
Flying Solo and CompetitivelyAmelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across North America and back in August 1928. She joined her first air race in August 1929 Women’s Air Derby from Santa Monica to Cleveland and came in third place after a fellow competitor forfeited due to an accident. The National Aeronautic Association made her an official in 1930. She and other female pilots created The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots named for the number of members, after the 1929 Derby and became its first president in 1930.
Amelia helped create an organization to assist others like her.
On May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart flew from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in a Lockheed Vega 5B to become the first woman to cross the Atlantic nonstop. She received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the National Geographic Society’s Gold Medal, and France’s Cross of the Knight of the Legion of Honor. Using different aircrafts, she set seven speed and distance records for women’s aviation from 1930 to 1935.
The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
In 1935, Amelia Earhart joined the Department of Aeronautics at Purdue University as a technical advisor and women’s career advisor. She began planning her around-the-world flight in 1936 and chose Captain Harry Manning and Fred Noonan to fly with her in the Lockheed Electra 10E. Their first attempt on March 17, 1937, successfully brought Amelia Earhart and her crew to Hawaii from California, but the plane needed servicing and the aircraft had to be shipped back to Lockheed for repairs.
Amelia Earhart’s second attempt started in Miami on June 1, 1937, with Fred Noonan as the only crewmember. They arrived in New Guinea on June 29, 1937. The pair left Lae Airfield on July 2, 1937, for Howland Island, only 2,556 miles away. Soon after the USCGC Itasca lost contact with the plane due to weather and radio issues.
The US Navy searched for the plane until July 19, but the plane and it’s two crew were never found. On January 5, 1939, the probate court of Los Angeles declared Amelia Earhart legally dead. Many different theories emerged regarding what happened to Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan and the mystery still captivates the world today.
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