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A pioneering aviator who disappeared mysteriously when attempting a round the world flight, Amelia Earhart was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

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Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was a US aviator whose mysterious disappearance continues to intrigue and fascinate people to this day. Born in Kansas, USA in 1897, Earhart refused to conform to the gender stereotypes of her time. As a young girl, she enjoyed playing sports, climbing trees and playing outdoors with her sister.

Earhart’s interest in flying began in 1920 when she flew as a passenger during a visit to an airfield in Long Beach, California with her father. The following year she started to take flying lessons; her first lesson was given by Anita Snook, another pioneering female aviator.

Earhart gained her pilot’s license in 1921 and went on to set a number of records. She became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the US Congress. In 1932, Earhart made a solo flight across the US – another first for a woman – and she additionally became the first person ever to fly solo from Hawaii to mainland USA.

In addition to these achievements, Earhart also worked hard to promote opportunities for women in the field of aviation, which had traditionally been seen as a male domain. She became the first president of ‘the Ninety Nines’, an organization founded in 1929 to promote the advancement of aviation and to inspire more women to become pilots.

In 1936, Earhart set her sights on even bigger records and started planning for a round the world flight. A first attempt was made in March 1937, but the journey was aborted due to technical difficulties. Earhart embarked on her second attempt in June 1937 and within a month had made it to New Guinea in her plane the Electra. On July 2, Earhart left New Guinea along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, and set off for Howland Island, an island in the Pacific Ocean about 1,500 miles away.

A US Coast Guard ship was stationed just off the coast of Howland Island, waiting for Earhart’s approach and ready to guide her landing. During the flight, the Coast Guard lost radio contact with Earhart, and the Electra never landed on Howland Island. Despite extensive searches using ships and planes, no trace of the Electra was found.

Numerous theories have been put forward about the tragic disappearance; theories range from the plane running out of fuel, to Earhart losing her direction and landing on an uninhabited island, to Earhart and Noonan being captured by the Japanese after crash landing their plane. The case continues to intrigue audiences around the world and it has been the subject of much speculation and conspiracy theorizing. While the circumstances of her death may never be known, the legacy of her life is clear: Earhart pushed boundaries and pursued her dreams, inspiring women to pursue their chosen careers and achieve their goals.

Amelia Earhart Accomplishments

  • The first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932. The flights took 14 hours and 56 minutes through strong winds and harsh weather conditions.
  • Earhart’s accomplishments have earned her wide acclaim as a feminist icon, showing that women can pursue careers in fields traditionally regarded as ‘male’.
  • Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for her ‘heroism’ and ‘extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.’

Amelia Earhart Quotes

“Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.”

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is mere tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do.”

“Adventure is worthwhile in its self.”

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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