Amelia Earhart is a name that is known by most American kids. They know her as the daring female pilot who vanished off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897. Her parents were Edwin and Amelia and her grandfather was a former federal judge. Amelia, nicknamed Meeley, had a younger sister. Her mother did not believe in molding her children into perfect little dolls and so Earhart was allowed to do as she pleased. Amelia even dressed in boys’ bloomers because she liked the freedom they provided her. She would spend hours climbing trees and doing other rough-and-tumble activities. At 10, she saw her first aircraft at a fair in Iowa and her father tried to interest her in it, but Earhart was unimpressed with what she saw. In 1909, she started public school at 12, after being home schooled. Edwin was an alcoholic and spent a long time searching for work, although Earhart’s grandfather left the family an estate. She graduated in 1916 and had an interest in science.
In 1917, she saw wounded soldiers returning from World War I and began training as a nurse’s aid for the Red Cross. In 1918, she became ill with the Spanish flu and spent a year sick. From then on, she often suffered from sinusitis. Around this time, she went to an Exposition in Canada, where a flying exhibition was held. Earhart was standing in a clearing watching and a pilot began to dive at her. Earhart stood her ground and the plane flew by, and Earhart said she felt that the plane had “said something” to her. In 1920, she took her first flight lesson and eventually, she earned $1,000 to continue lessons, which began on January 3, 1921. She began wearing a brown leather jacket, cut her hair short, and purchased a secondhand biplane. On October 22, 1922, she flew to 1400 feet, a record for female pilots. On May 15, 1923, she became only the 16th woman to be issued a pilot’s license. She fell on hard fortune again when her grandfather’s money ran out so she sold her two planes and bought a Speedster car. In 1924, she had a sinus operation. Amelia eventually made her way to Massachusetts, where she took work, and flew the first official flight out of the Dennison airport in 1927.
Earhart was engaged to Samuel Chapman before breaking it off on November 23, 1928. She was spending a great deal of time with George P. Putnam, who sought her out and proposed six times before she agreed to marry him. They were wed on February 7, 1931 and Earhart described the marriage as a true “partnership.” She believed that everyone in a marriage should be “breadwinners” and kept her own last name. They did not go on a honeymoon as she was busy promoting aircrafts around the country. Putnam had two sons that Earhart became fond of, but they never had any children together.
In 1927, Amy Phipps Guest, another female pilot, offered to sponsor a project for a woman to undertake a transcontinental flight. Earhart got the call in April 1928. Earhart did go on the flight, which occurred on June 17, 1928, but she was only a passenger. Yet, the flight gained her immense fame. On May 20, 1932, she embarked on her transcontinental flight. She left Harbour Grace, Newfoundland intending to go to Paris, but she landed in Ireland. For this, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross because she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. In 1935, she was the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California. She also made several other historic flights.
Then, she began to plan her world flight with Paul Mantz, Harry Manning, and Fred Noonan. The first attempt, they flew from Oakland to Hawaii but the plane was damaged. They tried again, this time flying in the opposite direction. They left Miami on June 1 and arrived in Lae, New Guinea on June 28, 1937. On July 2, 1837, they departed from Lae on the way to Howland Island. However, misunderstandings made the final approach to the island a failure so Earhart never reached the island.
There are many theories as to why this happened. Some claim that her lack of understanding of the loop antenna caused her to miscalculate where she was. Others point out that an antenna mounted on the plane may have torn off, compromising her radio transmissions. The shop Itasca received voice transmissions from Earhart staying that she could send transmissions but not receive them. She also told them that she thought they were in the right place, but they could not find the ship, and gas was running low. The ship sent out Morse code messages which she received but couldn’t follow to find the ship. Her last broadcast was at 8:42 am where she indicated that she believed they had reached Howland’s position on her chart, which was 5 miles off. A search effort was called to find Earhart’s plane but nothing was ever found. Many theorize that the plane ran out of fuel and pitched into the sea. The most popular theory states that she continued on past Howland Island and landed on Gardner Island. A skeleton of a white woman was found there along with a sextant box but it had been misplaced. Other things were also found on the island. Some blame her disappearance on the wonders of the Bermuda Triangle, some say she was a spy for FDR, and was spying on the Japanese when she disappeared. These are just some of the theories.
While mystery still surrounds her disappearance, Earhart’s legacy lives on. She’s seen as one of the most important figures for feminists in US history as well as an international celebrity who received countless awards with many achievements to her name. Her birthplace is now even a museum.
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