Amelia Earhart: A Life in Flight
One of the many prominent female figures in history, with a list of great achievements and the first of many women to do them, is none other than Amelia Earhart. In the book, Amelia Earhart: A Life in Flight, her life events and eventual disappearance have led to her name being carved in everyone’s mind. Earhart’s biography has been written by multiple authors to retell her story, one of which is by Victoria Garrett Jones, Amelia Earhart: A Life in Flight.
Early Life of Amelia Earhart
Amelia was born on July 24th, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas as the first daughter of Edwin and Amy Earhart. Her sister Muriel was born later in 1899. Amy and Edwin’s families were of different social statuses, but it did not stop them from being in a happy marriage. It did, however, cause financial problems and Amelia was sent to her maternal grandparents’ home when she was three years old and lived there for most of her school life. Her mother and sister frequently visited and Amelia went to her parent’s house during the summer holidays.
In 1908, her father was accepted in a new position as a claims agent in Des Moines, meaning the whole family could move to a new place and live together. A state fair was held that year and it was when ten-year-old Amelia saw an airplane for the first time but deemed it uninteresting. The irony was that in the far future, it would become her passion and reason for her fame.
Almost a decade later, Amelia was working as a nurse, treating soldiers, near a flying ground for military aircraft. She was not allowed to visit the military ground to watch the planes up close, but one day, Amelia and her friend had the chance to visit a stunt-flying exhibition. They stood in the middle of the field and had a clear view of the planes flying above and one pilot decided to give a different kind of entertainment from the usual. He dove him down towards them, and while her friend moved away from its direction, Amelia remained standing still. And in the moment of the plane flying close by, she was in admiration and awe, later remarking, “I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”
In the winter of 1920, Amelia had traveled to visit her parents in Los Angeles for a while and her parents learned of her enthusiasm for airplanes. Thus, her father had paid her for her very first flight, which was only 10 minutes long and worth 10 dollars at the time (approximately 100 dollars today). Since being a pilot and flying on planes was dominated by men, the pilot, Frank Hawks, was uncertain about letting Amelia on his plane. Hawks asked a second pilot to fly with them to make sure Amelia does not do anything unpredictable. Despite his attitude, Amelia was ecstatic, and once the plane took off, she later wrote, “I knew I myself had to fly”.
However, once her dad learned about her desire to take flying lessons, he completely rejected the idea. Amelia’s determination was bigger than her dad’s objection though, and she immediately got a job at a telephone company to save money to pay for her flying lessons.
Her first lesson took place on January 3rd, 1921 and within six months, she was able to save enough money to buy her first aircraft from her job at the telephone company, a second job as a gravel truck driver, and some support from her family. She named her first “pet” The Canary due to its bright, attractive color. After only a year and a half of mishaps and small accidents with flying, she began rewriting history by setting records as a female pilot.
Amelia is known for many things, especially since she was carrying out achievements never done by women in aviation, a male predominant field.
- Her first record took place on October 22nd, 1922, when she was the first successful woman who flew 14,000 feet above the ground.
- In 1928, she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in astonishing speed, 20 hours and 40 minutes.
- Another groundbreaking record occurred on August 24th, 1932, when she was able to fly on her own coast to coast within 19 hours and 5 minutes.
- Less than a year later, she broke her own record and flew the same route in 17 hours and 7 minutes.
- In her first attempt to fly across the world, Amelia’s aircraft was severely damaged. However, as she neared her 40th birthday, she was determined to attempt to fly around the world again. Thus, Amelia and her guide, Fred Noonan set off on that journey on June 1st, 1937. Due to inaccurate maps, the trip was difficult to navigate, but they successfully flew from the Red Sea to India, marking her as the first person to do so.
Lost, but never forgotten
Her second attempt to travel around the world was unfortunately unsuccessful. The main reason was that despite good weather conditions, navigation was deemed difficult, and eventually, the pair ran out of fuel and allegedly crashed into the vast ocean. Their next destination was supposed to be Howland Island, an island in the pacific ocean. Radio transmissions between USCGC Itasca, a Lake-class cutter of the United States Coast Guard that communicated with the pair, were unstable and kept cutting off. Amelia’s final message was on the morning of July 2nd when she reported, “We are running north and south.” The biggest and most expensive rescue mission in naval history then took place, costing the US government $4 million dollars and searching around 25,000 square feet. Nevertheless, the rescue mission was called off on July 19th. She was legally dead on January 5th, 1939.
A year later, a lighthouse was constructed on Howland Island in her memory, and her birthplace is known to be a sanctuary for her memory. Across the US, schools, streets, and even airports are named after her, and there are also scholarships and awards presented in her name.
Evidently, despite her never finishing the trip, it was still recognized as a great leap for pilots and women around the world. She was a symbol of hope and determination for women. In a letter for her husband, in case a flight trip took her life, she writes, “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.” In celebration of Women’s day, she is still remembered and commemorated for her accomplishments and legacy.
CMG Worldwide. Amelia Earhart – The Official Licensing Website of Amelia Earhart, https://ameliaearhart.com/. Accessed 15 March 2022.
Jones, Victoria Garrett. Amelia Earhart: A Life in Flight. Sterling, 2009 .