People Who Kick Buts: Amelia Earhart
The woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune.
- Born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas and disappeared in 1937.
- Earhart was the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record. She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots.
Earhart joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation.
- During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.
- Amelia Mary Earhart, daughter of German American Samuel “Edwin” Stanton Earhart (born March 28, 1867) and Amelia “Amy” Otis Earhart (1869–1962), was born in Atchison, Kansas, in the home of her maternal grandfather, Alfred Gideon Otis (1827–1912), a former federal judge, president of the Atchison Savings Bank and a leading citizen in the town.
- Alfred Otis had not initially favored the marriage and was not satisfied with Edwin’s progress as a lawyer.
- From an early age Earhart, nicknamed “Meeley” (sometimes “Millie”) was the ringleader while younger sister (two years her junior), Grace Muriel Earhart (1899–1998), nicknamed “Pidge,” acted the dutiful follower.
Their upbringing was unconventional since Amy Earhart did not believe in molding her children into “nice little girls.”
Meanwhile their maternal grandmother disapproved of the “bloomers” worn by Amy’s children and although Earhart liked the freedom they provided, she was aware other girls in the neighborhood did not wear them.
- A spirit of adventure seemed to abide in the Earhart children with the pair setting off daily to explore their neighborhood.
- As a child, Earhart spent long hours playing with Pidge, climbing trees, hunting rats with a rifle and “belly-slamming” her sled downhill. Although this love of the outdoors and “rough-and-tumble” play was common to many youngsters, some biographers have characterized the young Earhart as a tomboy.
The girls kept “worms, moths, katydids and a tree toad” in a growing collection gathered in their outings.
In 1904, with the help of her uncle, she cobbled together a home-made ramp fashioned after a roller coaster she had seen on a trip to St. Louis and secured the ramp to the roof of the family toolshed. Earhart’s well-documented first flight ended dramatically. She emerged from the broken wooden box that had served as a sled with a bruised lip, torn dress and a “sensation of exhilaration.” She exclaimed, “Oh, Pidge, it’s just like flying!”
- The two sisters, Amelia and Muriel (she went by her middle name from her teens on), remained with their grandparents in Atchison, while their parents moved into new, smaller quarters in Des Moines.
During this period, Earhart received a form of home-schooling together with her sister, from her mother and a governess. She later recounted that she was “exceedingly fond of reading” and spent countless hours in the large family library.
In 1909, when the family was finally reunited in Des Moines, the Earhart children were enrolled in public school for the first time with Amelia Earhart entering the seventh grade at the age of 12 years.
- While the family’s finances seemingly improved with the acquisition of a new house and even the hiring of two servants, it soon became apparent Edwin was an alcoholic. Five years later (in 1914), he was forced to retire and although he attempted to rehabilitate himself through treatment, he was never reinstated at the Rock Island Railroad. At about this time, Earhart’s grandmother Amelia Otis died suddenly, leaving a substantial estate that placed her daughter’s share in trust, fearing that Edwin’s drinking would drain the funds. The Otis house, and all of its contents, was auctioned; Earhart was heartbroken and later described it as the end of her childhood.
- At about that time, with a young woman friend, Earhart visited an air fair held in conjunction with the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto. One of the highlights of the day was a flying exhibition put on by a World War I “ace.” The pilot overhead spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing and dived at them. “I am sure he said to himself, ‘Watch me make them scamper,'” she said. Earhart stood her ground as the aircraft came close. “I did not understand it at the time,” she said, “but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”
- By 1919 Earhart prepared to enter Smith College but changed her mind and enrolled at Columbia University signing up for a course in medical studies among other programs. She quit a year later to be with her parents who had reunited in California.
- In Long Beach, on December 28, 1920, Earhart and her father visited an airfield where Frank Hawks (who later gained fame as an air racer) gave her a ride that would forever change Earhart’s life. “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground,” she said, “I knew I had to fly.”