by Yoon Joung Lee
The world’s most famous female aviator, Amelia Mary Earhart, was born in 1897 at her grandparents’ house in Atchison, Kansas. Her father, Samuel Edwin Stanton Earhart, was a railroad attorney, and her mother, Amelia Amy Otis Earhart, was the first woman to climb Pikes Peak. Her grandfather, Alfred Otis, was a former federal judge and a president of the Atchison Saving Bank.
During her childhood, she had lived in various places including Atchison, Kansas City, and Des Moines. From 1905 to 1908, Amelia and her younger sister, Muriel, had been raised by their grandparents after their parents moved to Des Moines for her father’s new job. The sisters were able to attend private schools and enjoy the comfortable life because of their grandparents’ good reputation and wealth. As a little girl, Amelia, was nicknamed ‘tomboy’ because she liked to participate in boys’ activities such as basketball.
In 1909, the family was reunited in Des Moines and the sisters were able to live with their parents again. They were enrolled in public school for the first time. It seemed that things around the family went well for a while until her father started to drink and became an alcoholic. Her father lost jobs and the family became unstable not only financially but also emotionally.
When she was 10-years-old, Amelia saw a plane for the first time at a state fair. However, it didn’t catch her attention at that moment. When she became interested in aviation was almost 12 years later in 1920. It was when she had a chance to attend a stunt-flying exhibition with her friend at an air fair held in conjunction with the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto. A few days after her attending of a stunt-flying, she took her flying lessons in California where her parents were living. She worked for a telephone office to make money to afford her lessons. With her sister and mother’s financial support, she could even purchase her own airplane, named “The Canary,” about 6 months later.
In 1924, when her parents were divorced, Amelia sold her plane and bought a car to move to Boston with her mother. In Boston, she was working as an English teacher for international students and also working as a visiting nurse. However, she still maintained her interest in aviation and joined the American Aeronautical Society’s Boston chapter, where she later became a Vice President of the organization.
While she was preparing for a flight from America to England, she met her future husband, George Palmer Putnam, who was a New York publicist and the one who selected Amelia as the first female passenger on a transatlantic flight in 1928. He believed that Amelia’s flight would become one of the bestselling stories for his publishing house. They got married in 1931 and he wrote two of her books, The Fun of It and Last Flight.
For 20 hours-and-40 minutes the Atlantic Flight in 1928 was pursued with pilot Wilmer Stultz and mechanic Lou Gordon in the plane called “Friendship.” While the flight was successfully done, Amelia instantly became world-famous as the first woman to cross the Atlantic while flying. However, she was not satisfied with her achievement. Sitting as a passenger was not good enough to say “accomplishment” for her. Then, she immediately started to plan on non-stop transatlantic solo flight.
In 1932, the Amelia’s plane left Newfoundland and headed to Wales. This journey was not easy for her because she had to go through various problems including strong winds and icy conditions. She ended up landing in Derry, Northern Ireland, which is now a museum, called the Amelia Earhart Centre. After completing 20 hours and 40 minutes of flight, she received honorable prizes such as the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society, the Gross of Knight of the Legion of Honor and the Distinguished Flying Cross, as the first woman to be finished with a solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Starting in1935, she successfully completed other solo flights including Hawaii to California, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to Newark.
In 1937, Amelia planned an around-the-world flight with Harry Manning, Fred Noonan and Paul Mantz. However, their attempt failed due to a flat tire accident that caused significant damage to the plane. Three months later, Amelia and Fred Noonan tried the second flight attempt from Miami, to Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Brazil, Africa, India, Burma, Bangkok, Singapore, Australia, and to New Guinea. However, they took off from Lea in New Guinea and intended to land in Howland Island, a tiny Island in the vast Pacific Ocean. The last position of the pair the United Nations Coast Guard found out was near the Nukumanu Islands and they failed to communicate with the pair due to the failure of using radio navigation and a series of misunderstandings and errors. Naval, air and land search teams could not find the location of Amelia and Noonan, and they were assumed to be lost at sea.
What made her keep moving forward to have her dream was a great passion for challenging herself. If she was satisfied by the title “the first woman to cross the Atlantic” as she attended as a passenger in 1928, she probably could not have achieved as many things as she had done as the first female pilot. Because of her enthusiasm and passion for achieving the goal, she could have made various world records as “the first woman.”
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