April 4th, 2016
There has always been a bit of a mystery around Amelia, due to the fact that she disappeared along with her navigator during an attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. There are many theories about their fate, but Amelia is foremost remembered for her courage and groundbreaking achievements, both in aviation and for women.
If we go back to when Amelia was a young girl in the 1900’s, she always fought the occasional disapproval of being a bit of a tomboy. She loved to climb trees, ‘belly slam’ her sled downhill and she hunted rats with a .22 rifle. Even at a young age, she felt defiant about what was expected of her and kept a scrapbook of clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields.
Amelia first felt the pull of the sky in her teens, when she attended a stunt-flying exhibition with a friend. A pilot spotted them and thought he’d give them a thrill…diving his plane down at them on the ground. Earhart stood her ground and she said later, “I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.” On December 28, 1920, pilot Frank Hawks gave her a ride on a flight and that forever changed her life and she knew she had to fly.
She finally took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921 and in only six months’ time she managed to buy her first airplane…a second-hand Kinner Airster. It was a bright yellow two-seater biplane and she named it ‘The Canary.’ She set her first women’s flying record in it by flying at an altitude of 14,000 feet.
In April of 1928, a group including book publisher George P. Putnam asked Amelia if she’d like to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic and she immediately jumped into the project. Her team included pilot Wilmer ‘Bill’ Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis E. ‘Slim’ Gordon. They left Newfoundland, Canada in a Fokker F7 on June 17, 1928 and arrived in Wales about 21 hours later. Their success was hugely celebrated with a ticker-tape parade in New York and a reception by President Coolidge.
Amelia went on in May of 1932…five years to the day after Lindbergh took his historic flight…to become the first woman and the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower.”
As Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for her biggest challenge: she wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. On June 1, 1937, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, left from Miami and began the 29,000 mile journey. By June 29th, when they landed in New Guinea, they had completed all but 7,000 miles of the trip. Their next hop to Howland Island was the most challenging and it was during that flight that contact was lost with them. The rescue attempt was the most extensive air and sea search in naval history at that time.
In a final quote in a letter to her husband before her final flight she wrote, “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
If you are intrigued to learn more about this pioneering tom-boy, join us for “History Alive – Flying High with Amelia Earhart” at the Chesapeake City Branch Library, Wednesday, April 20 at 6 PM. Mary Ann Jung, will bring to life the fascinating story of Amelia Earhart in this special, after-hours event. Call 410-996-1134 to register.
Have you dreamed of flying solo?