Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. She was thedaughter of a railroad attorney and had a younger sister named Muriel. Amelia was atomboy and was always interested in learning. She was educated at Columbia Universityand Harvard Summer School. She taught English to immigrant factory workers. DuringWorld War I, Amelia was a volunteer in a Red Cross hospital. Amelia heard of a woman pilot, Neta Snook, who gave flying lessons.
She had herfirst lesson on January 2, 1921. On July 24, 1921, Amelia bought her first plane, aprototype of the Kinner airplane and named it “The Canary.”In 1928, she accepted the invitation of the American pilots Wilmer Stultzman andLouis Gordon to join them on a transatlantic flight, becoming the first woman to make thecrossing by air She described the flight in a book she wrote, 20 Hours. 40 Minutes. Afterthat flight, Amelia made a career of flying.Aviation was a new concept and the industry looked for ways to improve itsimage. In 1921, Amelia was appointed Assistant to the General Traffic Manager andTranscontinental Air Transport (TWA) with a special responsibility of attracting womenpassengers.Amelia organized a cross-country air race for women pilots in 1929, the LosAngeles to Cleveland Women’s Air Derby, later called the “Powder Puff Derby.
” Ameliaplaced third in this race. After the race, Amelia had a meeting in her hotel room inCleveland with other women pilots. She formed a women’s pilot organization called the“Ninety-Nines” because of the ninety-nine applicants. She served as the organization’sfirst president. Amelia continued to work for TWA and was writing regular articles forCosmopolitan and other magazines, and had speaking engagements in many cities acrossthe country. In 1930, she broke several women’s speed records in her Lockheed Vega aircraft. In 1931, she wrote a book about those exciting experiences called The Fun of It. By early1932, no other person had successfully flown solo across the Atlantic Ocean since CharlesLindbergh.
Amelia decided she would be the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic. She would not duplicate Lindbergh’s course, but would fly from Harbour Grace,Newfoundland and the British Isles would be her destination. On May 20, 1932, exactly five years after the Lindbergh flight, Amelia’s modifiedLockheed Vega began the journey. Since she did not drink coffee or tea, she would keepawake by using smelling salts. All she took with her to eat and drink on this trip waswater, soup, and tomato juice. Amelia broke several records on this flight. She was thefirst woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean solo, the only person to fly it twice, it was thelongest non-stop distance flown by a woman, and the flight set a record for crossing theAtlantic in the shortest time.When Amelia returned to New York after her famous flight, she was honored by aticker tape parade.
President Roosevelt presented her with the Special Gold Medal fromthe National Geographic Society. Honors of all kinds were given to Amelia, as well askeys to many cities in the United States. The United States Congress awarded her withthe Distinguished Flying Cross. Amelia was voted as Woman of the Year which sheaccepted on behalf of all women.Amelia’s next venture would be a transpacific flight from Hawaii to California,then on the Washington D.C.
Ten pilots had already lost their lives attempting thiscrossing. She departed Wheeler Field in Honolulu and landed in Oakland, California to acheering crowd of thousands. After this flight, Amelia was busy on the road almostnon-stop with her lecture tours. During this time, she accepted an appointment at PurdueUniversity in Indiana.
She would be a consultant in the Department for the Study ofCareers for Women.Later in 1935, Amelia began to make plans for an around the world flight. Thisflight would be two major firsts. She would be the first woman to fly around the worldand she would travel the longest possible distance, 29,000 miles, following a route aroundthe equator. Frederick Noonan, a former Pan Am Airlines navigator was chosen as theflight’s navigator because he was familiar with the Pacific area. The plane chosen for theflight was the Lockheed Electra 10E. The first leg of their journey would be fromOakland, California to Hawaii on March 17, 1935.
In Hawaii, Amelia had an accidentduring take-off from Luke Field near Pearl Harbor. A great deal of damage was done tothe plane.On June 1, 1937, Amelia and Frederick Noonan left Miami, Florida to once againbegin their around the world flight. After many stops in South America, Africa, the India,and Southeast Asia, they arrived at Lae, New Guinea on June 29. About 22,000 miles ofthe journey had been completed and there were 7,000 miles more to go, all of them overthe Pacific Ocean.
Photos taken at Lae show Amelia looking very tired and ill.On July 2, 1937 at 00:00 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), Amelia and Fredericktook off from Lae with 1,000 gallons of fuel, allowing for 20-21 hours of flying time. Their intended destination was Howland Island, a tiny piece of land a few miles long,twenty feet high, and 2,556 miles away. The Coast Guard cutter Itasca was stationed nearHowland Island and was assigned to communicate with Amelia’s plane and guide her tothe island. Several short radio transmissions were received by the Itasca, but they wereunable to get a fix on her location because the radio contact had been too brief.
At 19:30GMT, almost twenty hours into the flight, the following transmission was received fromthe Electra; “KHAQQ calling Itasca. We must be on you, but cannot see you…
gasrunning low…” .
After six hours of trying to communicate with the Electra, all contactwas lost.A search by the Navy and Coast Guard was organized and no physical evidence ofthe Electra or of Amelia Earhart or Frederick Noonan was ever found. Over the years,many unconfirmed sightings have been reported and there are many theories of their fate. Some of those theories are that Amelia was a on a spy mission authorized by PresidentRoosevelt and was captured; that she purposely dove her aircraft into the Pacific; theywere captured by the Japanese, Noonan was executed and Earhart was forced tobroadcast to the American GI’s as “Tokyo Rose” during World War II; and anothertheory is that Amelia lived for years on an island in the South Pacific with a nativefisherman.
In 1961 it was thought that the bones of Earhart and Noonan had been foundon the island of Saipan, but they turned out to be those of Saipan natives. In 1992, asearch party reported finding remnants of the Electra at Nikumaroro, Kiribati, but thoseclaims were disputed by people who worked on Earhart’s plane. Researches believe thatthe plane ran out of fuel and that Earhart and Noonan died at sea.Amelia Earhart spent most of her lifetime establishing the permanent role ofwomen in aviation. She became an international heroine overnight as the first woman tofly across the Atlantic Ocean.
Amelia’s disappearance is still a mystery, but her enduringlegacy remains.Book Reports