Born in Kansas, Amelia Earhart (1897 – 1937) decided to study nursing after she met four wounded World War I veterans on the street. During the war, Amelia worked as a military nurse in Canada. At the war’s end, she became a social worker at the Denison House in Boston and taught English to immigrant children.
One day, after taking a ten minute plane ride, Amelia knew that she wanted to learn to fly. By working several odd jobs and with the help of her mother, Amelia earned enough money to take flying lessons. Ten hours of instruction and several crashes later, Amelia was ready to fly solo. She made her first solo flight in 1921. Except for a poor landing, the flight was uneventful. By the next year, Amelia had saved enough money to buy a plane of her own. Flying was merely a hobby for her at that time.
In 1928, Amelia received a call from Captain Hilton H. Railey asking her to join pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon on a flight from America to England. Although she was only a passenger, Amelia became the first woman to cross the Atlantic on a plane called the Friendship on June 17-18, 1928. Amelia’s 1928 flight brought her tremendous publicity, and she subsequently endeavored to justify this renown. On May 20-21, 1932, Amelia crossed the Atlantic on her own, establishing a new transatlantic crossing record of 13 hours, 30 minutes. Amelia was celebrated throughout Europe and the United States and received a medal from President Herbert Hoover. Several years later, Amelia became the first woman to successfully complete the hazardous flight from Hawaii to California.
In June 1937, Amelia began what was to be her final flight. Amelia and navigator Fred Noonan set out in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra in an attempt to fly around the world. They departed from Miami, Florida to South America, and then across the South Atlantic Ocean to Dakar, Africa. After crossing the Sahara desert, they flew to Thailand, Singapore, Java, and Australia. However, after departing Lae, New Guinea for Howland Island, the U.S. Coast Guard lost contact with the plane. They received a final message on July 2 at 8:45 a.m., and Amelia’s tone was described as frantic.
The United States Navy searched extensively but never found a trace of the aviators or the plane. The mysterious disappearance of Earhart and her plane has raised considerable speculation throughout the years. Some believe that she and Noonan were captured and executed by the Japanese. Others speculate that President Roosevelt sent Earhart on a secret spy mission. However, none of the many theories for her disappearance have ever been confirmed.
Amelia was a founder member and the first president of the 99s, a women pilots association.