Amelia Earhart (Painting #10 of 13) “Influential Women”


Amelia Earhart 1897 -1937

Amelia Earhart
1897 – 1937

“I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”

“We remember her because she is our favorite missing person,” says Tom D. Crouch, Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum. The unresolved circumstances of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance, along with her fame as a record breaking aviatrix, attracted various claims relating to her last flight, all of which have been generally dismissed for lack of verifiable evidence. Several unsupported theories have become well known. Earhart was an international celebrity during her lifetime. Her shyly charismatic appeal, independence, persistence, coolness under pressure, courage and goal-oriented career, along with the circumstances of her disappearance at a comparatively early age, have driven her lasting fame in popular culture. Hundreds of articles and scores of books have been written about her life – which is often cited as a motivational tale, especially for women. Earhart is generally regarded as a feminist icon.

Earhart’s accomplishments in aviation inspired a generation of female aviators, including more than 1,000 women pilots of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried military aircraft, towed gliders, flew target practice aircraft, and served as transport pilots during World War II.

The home where Earhart was born is now the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchinson Ks. and is maintained by The Ninety-Nines, an international group of female pilots of whom Earhart was the first elected president.

A small section of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra starboard engine nacelle recovered in the aftermath of first attempted around the world flight, that crashed in Hawaii, has been confirmed as authentic and is now regarded as a control piece that will help to authenticate possible future discoveries.

Amy Earhart, Amelia’s mother, did not believe in molding her children into “nice little girls.” At age seven 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, (her sister) it’s just like flying!” She made a ramp on the roof of the family shed and slid down it, emulating a rollercaoster she had see at the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis.

During a flying exhibition put on by a World War I ace, the pilot spotted Earhart and a friend, watching from an isolated clearing, and dived at them. “I am sure he said to himself, ‘Watch me make them scamper,'” she wrote in an account. 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.”

Chronic sinusitis significantly affected Earhart’s flying activities in later life, sometimes on the airfield she was forced to wear a bandage on her cheek to cover a small drainage tube. This was due to her Red Cross duties in Toronto, Canada after World War I, where she was exposure to the flu pandemic of 1918. She worked other jobs, including photographer, truck driver, and stenographer at the local Long Beach Ca. telephone company, while she was living there with her parents. She managed to save $1,000 for flying lessons. Earhart had her first lessons, beginning on January 3, 1921. After securing her pilots license, Amelia still had to work at various jobs to sustain herself and her mother. It wasn’t until her transatlantic flight with Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon that she found some semblance of recognition. Self-described as “just baggage” on that endeavor, the notoriety she enjoyed as “Lady Lindy” (after Charles Lindberg) resulted in a series for public speaking tours that further raised her prominence. With George P. Putnam, the book publisher and publicist, backing her, Amelia became a well known comity endorsing women’s clothes, luggage and cigarettes. She became associate editor for Cosmopolitan magazine, giving her a platform to promote female flying, and she became involved with The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots providing moral support and advancing the cause of women in aviation. At age 34 she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, followed by other “first”: Honolulu to Oakland, Ca., LA to Mexico City, and from there to New York. Air racing was popular during this period and Earhart participated in many of these events.

Amelia Earhart’s first attemt to circumnavagate the globe was plauged with mechanical difficulties, but she resolved those problems and set off from Miami on her second attempt July 2, 1937. What followed during the last leg of her flight over the Pacific has been the subject of speculation and research for decades. Many therioes are postured as to her final hours in the Howland Island vicinty but to date there has never been any evidence to substanciate what happend to Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan. Mysteries remain and therories abound but the only solid fact is Amelia’s legacy as a courageous woman with a determination to fulfill her dream of being a first rate pilot.

 

(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

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~ by Larry Revene on July 10, 2014.

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