Amelia Mary Earhart (July 24, 1897 – disappeared 1937) was a noted American aviation pioneer and author. Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She set many other records and wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences.
There are many theories surrounding the controversial disappearance of the plane on July 2, 1937. The most commonly accepted theory is that the fliers got lost, ran out of gas, and went down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. However, as war between the United States and Japan was imminent, there were rumors that Earhart had been on a spy mission for the United States and was supposed to photograph Japanese military installations. This theory says that she crash-landed and was captured by the Japanese, who imprisoned or executed her. A third theory was that her disappearance was staged to allow the U.S. Navy to conduct a search in the South Pacific.
The flyers' last communication was at 8:45 a.m. and their tanks were already out of fuel. They never reached Howland Island, and no trace of them or their craft was ever found – although an extensive coordinated search was carried out by the Navy and Coast Guard. Despite the efforts of 66 aircraft and 9 ships and an expenditure of an estimated 4 million dollars, authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, their fate remained a mystery.
What turned out to be the final flight of Earhart's career, and, ultimately, her life, began on June 1, 1937. Earhart and Noonan left for their round-the-world flight from Miami, Florida, in her twin-engine, red-winged Electra. From Miami, they flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Right before taking off on this leg of the flight, Earhart was quoted as saying, "I have a feeling there is just about one more good flight left in my system and I hope this trip is it. Anyway, when I have finished this job, I mean to give up long-distance 'stunt' flying."
Earhart's name became a household word in 1932 when she became the first woman, and second person, to fly solo across the Atlantic, on the fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's feat, flying a Lockheed Vega from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland to Londonderry, Ireland. That year, she received the Distinguished Flying Cross from the Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Hoover.
In January 1935 Earhart became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to Oakland, California. Later that year she soloed from Los Angeles to Mexico City and back to Newark, N.J. In July 1936 she took delivery of a Lockheed 10E "Electra," financed by Purdue University, and started planning her round-the-world flight.
Earhart became the first woman vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, which authorized official records and races. She persuaded the organization to establish separate female records because women did not have the money or planes — and thus the experience — to fairly compete against men for "world" titles. Earhart served as a partner in the Transcontinental Air Transport and Ludington airlines and lobbied Congress for aviation legislation. She promoted the safety and efficiency of air travel to women, on the premise that they would influence men. She tirelessly lectured across the country on the subjects of aviation and women's issues and wrote for Cosmopolitan and various magazines. She wrote about her flights and career in 20 Hours and 40 Minutes, The Fun of It, and Last Flight, which was published after her disappearance.
In 1930, after only 15 minutes of instruction, Earhart became the first woman to fly an autogiro, made by Pitcairn and featuring rotating blades to increase lift and allow short takeoffs and landings. Earhart set the first autogiro altitude record and made two autogiro cross-country tours, which were marked by three public "crack-ups," as she called them. Though Earhart was the most famous woman pilot, she was not the most skilled.
In 1929, Earhart co-founded an organization whose goal it was to advance women's participation and opportunities in aviation. Called the Ninety-Nines, the organization was composed of 99 charter members, representing 99 of the 117 licensed women pilots in the United States at the time.
Getting to the airfield meant a lengthy bus ride that dumped her out 4 miles from the airfield -- an 8 mile hike for each lesson. But by 1921 she’d bought her first airplane, and in 1922 she set her first record by flying to 14,000 feet, the first woman ever to reach such heights. In 1923 she became only one of 16 women in the world to receive a pilot's license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
Sometime before their marriage, Earhart and Putnam worked on secret plans for a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. By early 1932, they had made their preparations. They announced that on the fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic, Amelia would attempt the same feat. On the morning of May 20, 1932, she took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, with that day's copy of the local newspaper to confirm the date of the flight.
At a Long Beach air show in 1920, Amelia Earhart took a plane ride that transformed her life. It was only 10 minutes, but when she landed she knew she had to learn to fly. Working at a variety of jobs, from photographer to truck driver, she earned enough money to take flying lessons from pioneer female aviator Anita "Neta" Snook. Earhart immersed herself in learning to fly. She read everything she could find on flying, and spent much of her time at the airfield. She cropped her hair short, in the style of other women aviators. Worried what the other, more experienced pilots might think of her, she even slept in her new leather jacket for three nights to give it a more "worn" look.
Like Pappy Boyington, her family circumstances were unsettled, marked by moves and alcoholism in the family. The odd family arrangement (Amelia living with her grandparents in Atchison, her younger sister Muriel with the girls' parents in Kansas City) lasted until Amelia was ten, when she rejoined with her mother and father.
Her father Edwin, was well-educated, but tended to the impractical; money just slipped through his fingers. His in-laws, the Otises, helped him out a lot (including taking care of Amelia), but Edwin's extravagance remained a problem.
Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Kansas, the daughter of Edwin and Amy Earhart. At the age of three, she was sent to live with her grandmother (her namesake), mainly because the old woman needed company and a distraction from the deaths of her mother, her son, and her daughter-in-law, as well as the poor mental condition of her husband Alfred. The grandparents (or grandmother) raised Amelia during her early childhood. She liked their home in Atchison, Kansas, especially her large bedroom with views of the nearby river, now a museum open to the public.