Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and an inspiration to many women, was born on July 24, 1897. She was born in her grandparent’s home in Atchison, Kansas to Amy and Edwin Earhart. Amy had suffered a miscarriage previously and returned to her parent’s home to have Amelia. Amelia’s father stayed in Kansas City to carry on in his law practice. Amelia’s sister, Muriel, was born 2 and a half years after her.
The two sisters were to know wealth through their grandparents and attended private schools and enjoyed many comforts of life. Amelia’s grandfather, Alfred Otis was one of the leading citizens in Atchison.
In 1905 Amelia’s father, Edwin Stanton Earhart’s private law practice failed and he took a job with the Rock Island Line Railroad in Des Moines, Iowa. Edwin and Amelia’s mother, Amy left the girls with Amy’s parents in Atchison and moved to Des Moines. The girls would join their parents in 1908.
Amelia saw her firs t airplane at the Iowa State Fair. She was not interested then and it would be more than 10 years before she became interested in airplanes and aviation.
Amelia’s father was promoted in 1909 and the family’s living conditions became more acceptable. This was a prelude to the disintegration of the family. Amelia’s father became a drunk and the family went from having social and financial security to being the subject of local gossip. Amy and the girls left Edwin in 1914 and he was fired from the Rock Island RR and went to live with his friends in Chicago. Amy had some money from a trust fund and used it to send the girls to intermediate schools in preparation for college.
Amelia went to train as a nurse’s aid in Toronto, Canada and served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse at a military hospital until the Armistice in November 1918. In the fall of 1919, she enrolled as a pre-med student at Columbia. She did well in her studies, but chose to join her mother and father, who had just reunited, in California.
Months after her arrival in California, Amelia and her father went to an “aerial meet” at Daugherty Field in Long Beach. Amelia was very interested in flying now and the next day went on a 10-minute flight over Los Angeles in a biplane.
Amelia was married in 1931 on February 7th to George Putnam. Earhart referred to the marriage as a partnership and didn’t hold her husband or herself to any medieval ideas about faithfulness. She kept her own name, but didn’t overreact when she was called Mrs. Putnam. Her husband George was sometimes called Mr. Earhart. The two never had any children together, but George had two sons from his first marriage. Amelia was especially fond of his son, David, who came to visit often. George’s son George had contracted polio and couldn’t visit as often.
Amelia became know and admired by every one in America when she became the first woman and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Then in 1935 she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean from Honolulu to Oakland, California. Later that year she started planning her around-the-world flight.
Amelia Earhart’s flight around the world would not be the first but it would be the longest at 29,000 miles. Her first attempt was March 17, 1937 form Oakland to Honolulu. Amelia’s plane suffered a blown tire during take off from Honolulu. The flight was called off and the plane had to be repaired.
The next attempt would be from Miami, Florida, going East to West. Amelia Earhart’s copilot and only companion for the fight was Fred Noonan. The two took off and flew from Miami to Lae, New Guinea. They left on June 1, 1937 and arrived in Lae on June 29, 1937. They had flown about 22,000 and had 7,000 miles left to go.
Amelia and Noonan left Lae on July 2, 1937. They were headed to Howland Island. Their last positive position was over the Nukumanu Islands, about 800 miles into the flight. There were repeated attempts for hours to contact the two flyers and make known their position. However, Earhart and Noonan had little knowledge of the use of radio navigation. After six hours all contact was lost and the two were never heard of or seen again.
The Navy and Coast Guard organized a search that turned up no trace of either the plane or the two pilots. Earhart and Noonan’s fate has been the subject of many rumors and allegations, which have never been substantiated.