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record-breaking passenger and pilot
Amelia Mary Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas, on July 24, 1897, and spent her childhood in both Atchison and Kansas City, Kansas. Her family moved to Des Moines, Iowa, when she was in the seventh grade, and she attended a private preparatory school in Philadelphia at age 19. During World War I, she worked as a nurse's aide at Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto, Canada, tending to wounded soldiers. After the war she enrolled as a pre-medical student at Columbia University, but dropped out in order to join her parents in California.
It was in California that Amelia took up aviation as a hobby, working odd jobs to pay for her flying lessons. In 1922, with financial help from her mother and sister, she purchased her first airplane, a Kinner Airster. Following her parents' divorce, she moved to Boston, where she worked briefly as a social worker.
In 1928, publisher George Palmer Putnam chose Earhart to be the first female passenger on a transatlantic flight. With pilot Wilmer Stultz and mechanic Lou Gordon, she flew from Newfoundland to Wales aboard the trimotor plane Friendship. She wrote about the experience in her book 20 Hours - 40 Minutes, which was published by Putnam. In 1929, Earhart took third place in the inaugural Powder Puff Women's Air Derby. Earhart and Putnam were married in 1931, but Amelia continued her aviation career under her maiden name. The two formed a very successful partnership. Putnam organized Earhart's flights and public appearances, and arranged for her to endorse a line of flight luggage and sports clothing. He also published two more of her books -- The Fun of It and Last Flight.
After a series of record-making flights, Earhart became the first woman to make a solo transatlantic flight in 1932, flying from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Ireland. In 1935, she became the first person (male or female) to fly from Honolulu, Hawaii, to the American mainland. In so doing, Earhart also became the first person (male or female) to fly solo over both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. That same year, Earhart also joined the faculty of Purdue University as a female career consultant.
It was the purchase of a Lockheed Electra, through Purdue, that enabled Earhart to attempt yet another first -- a flight around the world. Earhart and her navigator, Frederick Noonan, embarked on their flight in June of 1937. On July 2, after completing nearly two-thirds of the flight, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae, New Guinea, bound for Howland Island, and were never heard from again. A massive naval, air and land search failed to locate either Earhart, Noonan, or their airplane.
George Putnam published Soaring Wings, a biographical tribute to his wife, in 1939.
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This page was last updated on 11/09/2017.