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Amelia Earhart

Aviation Pioneer


Amelia Earhart, 1932

Amelia Earhart arrives in London on May 22, 1932, after flying solo across Atlantic.

Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Amelia Earhart 1935

Amelia Earhart 1935

Hulton Archive / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Amelia Earhart Facts:

Known for: aviatrix, flyer, lecturer, writer -- setting records in aviation, and her 1937 disappearance in an attempt to fly around the world
Occupation: aviator
Dates: born July 24, 1897, disappeared July 2, 1937, took off on last airplane trip June 1, 1937
Also known as: Amelia Mary Earhart Putnam

Amelia Earhart Biography:

Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas. Her father was a lawyer for a railroad company, a job which required frequent moving, and so Amelia Earhart and her sister lived with grandparents until Amelia was 12. She then moved around with her parents for some years, until her father lost his job due to a drinking problem.

At age 20, Amelia Earhart, on a trip to Toronto, Canada, volunteered as a nurse's aide at a military hospital, part of the World War I war effort. She made several tries at studying medicine and she worked at other jobs including social work, but after she discovered flying, that became her passion.

Amelia Earhart's first flight was at an airshow with her father, which motivated her first to learn to fly -- her teacher was Neta Snook, the first woman instructor to graduate from the Curtiss School of Aviation.

Amelia Earhart then bought her own plane and began to set records, but sold the plane to drive East with her newly-divorced mother.

In 1926, magazine publisher George Putnam tapped Amelia Earhart to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic -- as a passenger. The pilot and navigator were both men. Amelia Earhart became an instant celebrity as a woman aviator, and began to give lectures and fly in shows, again setting records. In one notable incident, she flew First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt over Washington, D.C.

In 1931, George Putnam, now divorced, married Amelia Earhart. She flew solo across the Atlantic in 1932, and in 1935 became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the mainland. In 1935 she also set speed records traveling from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to New York.

Purdue University hired Amelia Earhart as a faculty member to counsel female students on opportunities, and in 1937 Purdue gave Amelia Earhart a plane.

Amelia Earhart was determined to fly around the world. Replacing her first navigator with Fred Noonan, and after several false starts, Amelia Earhart began her round-the-world flight on June 1, 1937.

Near the end of the trip, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan missed their expected landing on Howland Island in the Pacific, and their fate is still uncertain. Theories include crashing over the ocean, crashing on Howland Island or a nearby island without the ability to contact help, being shot down by the Japanese, or being captured or killed by the Japanese.

Amelia Earhart and Women's History:

Why did Amelia Earhart capture the imagination of the public? As a woman daring to do what few women -- or men -- had done, at a time when the organized women's movement had virtually disappeared, she represented a woman willing to break out of traditional roles.

More women's history biographies, by name:

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