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Amelia Earhart: Queen of the Air and Feminist Icon

By Edited Aug 25, 2015 0 0

On July 24, 1897 Amelia Mary Earhart was born to Samuel Stanton Earhart and Amelia Otis Earhart in Atchison, Kansas. When she was a small child her family called her “Meeley” and her younger sister “Pidge”.  Amelia was known as a “tomboy” growing up in her neighborhood.  She would often be found hunting rats, collecting bugs, climbing trees, and “belly slamming” her sled to start it down the hill, all of which were things that only boys did at that time. Interestingly enough, throughout her childhood Amelia kept newspaper clippings of women doing jobs that were normally done by men. When it came to her relationships with those of the opposite gender, Amelia definitely had an attitude of “anything he can do I can do better.”

Amelia graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1916.  Amelia enrolled in a junior college in Pennsylvania but she did not complete the program. She then moved to Canada in 1917 and worked as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital during WWI where she cooked and cared for wounded soldiers.

Amelia enrolled at Columbia University in 1919 but later withdrew and moved out to California to be with her parents when she learned they had reunited. Amelia decided she had to learn how to fly after her father took her to an airfield in Long Beach, CA where Frank Hawks took her for a ten minute ride in his plane. She worked hard to save up enough money to pay for flying lessons. She was only the 16th woman to receiver her pilot’s license in the U.S. She bought her first plane in 1921 which she named the Canary because it was yellow.

Amelia later went back to college in Boston during 1925 but had to withdraw when her family could no longer afford her tuition. She then took a job as a teacher and then a social worker all the while she continued her interest and involvement in aviation. 

George Putman was solicited by a wealthy North American woman, Amy Guest to find a woman who could accomplish a flight across the Atlantic Ocean, as she wanted to sponsor such an event. He found Amelia Earhart who was up for the challenge. George and Amelia shared many common interests and became quite close. So close that George divorced his wife and sought Amelia’s hand in marriage. After six proposals, Amelia finally agreed to marry George Putman. They were married on February 7, 1931. George was a famous publicist. Amelia did not submit to traditional roles in marriage and insisted on keeping her last name and equality in their relationship with each other. Some even referred to George as “Mr. Earhart”. The couple never had children together but would often spend time with George’s children from a previous marriage.

Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo in 1932. She was awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross for this amazing flight and was the first woman to receive this award. President Hoover presented her with a gold medal from the National Geographic Society for this flight as well. Amelia felt that the flight proved that men and women were equal in jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed and willpower. She became somewhat of a celebrity following the transatlantic flight and became friends with many important people including First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt who also had a fervent interest in women’s causes. The two remained friends throughout their lives.

Amelia was an amazing pilot and she continued to accomplish “first flights” and breaking flying records for speed and distance throughout her life. Amelia’s famous last flight was in 1937 when she attempted to fly around the world. With 7,000 miles left in the trip her plane went down.  A rescue attempt ensued and became the most extensive sea search in naval history.  Neither Amelia nor her plane was ever recovered.

The world will always remember Amelia Earhart for her courage, vision, and ground breaking achievements, both in aviation and as a feminist icon.

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