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In a 1935 radio broadcast on a woman's place in science, Amelia Earhart encourages women to make their mark on the new field of aviation. On June 18, 1928, Earhart became the first woman to successfully fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
Why Amelia Earhart?
Over the last few weeks I’ve been so immersed in the story of Amelia Earhart that I thought I’d share some of the ‘less important’ things about Amelia that make her such a fantastic person to learn about, and to pose as a role model.
Amelia was a ‘normal’ person. She came from a very middle of the road family, if anything, her dad wasn’t a particularly successful lawyer, and they moved around a fair bit. She was born in her grandfather’s house, homebirth being something my girls can relate to, and she was homeschooled until 12 – another thing that makes her relateable to my children.
Amelia didn’t grow up with the things that became her passion. In fact, she first saw a plane when she was 10 years old, and after having been at a fair, she went home and made a rollercoaster from her shed roof. She coasted the box into the ground, breaking it, tearing her dress, skinning her knees, and she was exhilarated!
Amelia went to high school, but she didn’t like it much. She started various courses, studied bits of different things, but nothing really stuck for her. She worked as a nurses assistant during the First World War and picked up a nasty sinusitis which plagued her and caused her to need surgery for years. When she started flying it bothered her, but not so much that she gave up.
After her first flight – I can’t find where I read this, but I read somewhere that Amelia worked 3 jobs to save up the money for her first flying lessons. It didn’t come easily to her! She worked for it!
Amelia had a sense of defiance for the status quo – she wore bloomers at a time where that wasn’t acceptable. Even her grandmother wasn’t happy about it, but she felt it was more functional than flying in a dress.
Amelia was involved in starting the first commercial airline – by which I mean she helped set it up. She helped hire nurses to act as air hostesses because people kept getting air sick on the planes. She started a clothing line based on what worked for her. She didn’t want to get married, because she couldn’t accept having to give up flying to be a wife and mother (as Neta Snook, the woman who taught Amelia to fly, and many other women at the time, did). She eventually did marry, but she married someone who would see her as an equal and who would support her dreams, not stand in the way of them.
She also inadvertently blazed a path for women, and for women pilots. She was the first president of the Ninety Nines, an organisation for women pilots that is still in operation today.
There is so much about Amelia that is relatable. She worked hard for what she had. It didn’t all come easily. She had to go against the ‘norm’. She had to make sacrifices. She broke records upon records, and she eventually gave her life for it. She believed in her dreams, and in herself, and that, I believe, makes her a woman who did.
Amelia Earhart was born July 24, 1898 in Atchison, Kansas. She was a lively tomboy throughout her childhood and unlike most American women in her generation and generations before, she never outgrew this trait. She volunteered in a Red Cross Hospital during World War I, taught English to immigrant factory workers, and studied pre-med for a short time. But airplanes were her first love.
Amelia loved excitement. Impressed with stunt fliers and air shows, Amelia learned to fly and became a licensed pilot, making her first solo flight in 1921. Soon she saved enough money to buy her own plane.
In 1928, Amelia was asked to be a part of a team of pilots that were to make a transatlantic flight. She accepted and became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She was hallowed by the press and dubbed “Lady Lindy”, winning public affection. But Amelia was not satisfied with this. Because of her adventurous spirit and love for the spotlight, Amelia became determined to perfect her flying skills, making plans to fly the ocean on her own. This she did on May 20, 1932. Amelia achieved a number of flight “firsts”. She was the first woman pilot to fly the Pacific Ocean and the first woman to make a transcontinental flight in an autogyro, the predecessor of the helicopter, which was still in it’s developmental stage. But while attempting to fly around the world in 1937, Amelia’s plane vanished and she was presumed lost at sea. She was 39 years old.
Amelia Earhart was a woman of great courage. She chose to loose herself from the conventional roles of women in her generation and follow her heart, doing what she loved best – flying.
Amelia Earhart to her former flight instructor, Neta Snook, 1929
The first decades of the twentieth century brought a golden age of aviation. During this exciting period, many pioneering women defied traditional female roles to become pilots. Amelia Earhart is the most famous of this group of aviatrixes, but Neta Snook, the woman who taught Earhart how to fly, is often overlooked.
Snook had been flying for four years, having made a living as a test pilot and a barnstormer, when she met Earhart in December 1920 at California&rsquos Kinner Field, where Snook was a flight instructor. Snook later described her first impression of Earhart: "I&rsquoll never forget the day she and her father came to the field. I liked her on sight." On January 3, 1921, Earhart took her first flying lesson with Snook. Already equipped with an impressive knowledge of aviation and an eagerness to fly, Earhart became Snook&rsquos most famous student.
The two women grew close and discussed not only aviation but also philosophical matters. In her autobiography, I Taught Amelia to Fly (1974), Snook recounted an instance when Earhart, who was interested in world religions and cultures, had asked her to read the Koran. Snook refused, declaring that there was no mention of Mohammed in the Bible. The two women remembered their disagreements fondly rather than bitterly, however, and nearly a decade after they first flew together, Earhart sent this friendly letter to her former instructor remembering their time together. On January 26, 1929, Earhart wrote, "My dear Neta: It is long ago that we flew together at Kinner Field, California. Yes, I do remember discussions of the Koran, and cold boiled potatoes."
At the time this letter was written, Earhart was aviation editor at Cosmopolitan and was responsible for writing about the popularity and trends of aviation. She was involved in co-founding the Ninety-Nines, an organization of woman pilots still active today. Her career was full of "firsts" she was the first woman passenger on a transatlantic flight, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and the first woman recipient of the flying cross. What would have been her greatest feat became her last adventure, however, as she set out to become the first person to fly around the world at the equator in 1937. Having completed 22,000 miles of the 27,000-mile trip, Earhart and her navigator, Frederick Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific on July 2, 1937.
By the time of Earhart&rsquos disappearance, Neta Snook Southern had been retired from flying for fifteen years. (She had left aviation in 1922 after her marriage to William Southern.) The two women never had the chance, as Earhart wrote in 1929, to "have a few words about the old days." In 1977, forty years after Earhart&rsquos disappearance and fifty-five years after her own last flight, Snook Southern took to the air again when she was invited to pilot a replica of Charles Lindbergh&rsquos Spirit of St. Louis.
1 9 2 9
It is long ago that we flew together at Kinner Field, California. Yes, I do remember discussions of the Koran, and cold boiled potatoes.
Flying has meant much to me, and I am happy in being associated with aviation in any capacity. Sometime our paths may cross again, and we may be able to have a few words about the old days.
 Neta Snook Southern. I Taught Amelia to Fly. (New York: Vantage Press, 1974), 101.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
In most barnstorming shows, men piloted the planes. When women participated, they usually performed stunts such as wing walking. Gladys Ingle , a plane transfer specialist, was famous for shooting arrows at a target while standing on the top wing of a Curtiss Jenny and for changing planes in mid air. This film was obviously shot during a staged event, but is great nonetheless.
A specific role
Earhart already had around 500 hours of flight time to her name. Nonetheless, she would not pilot this flight. Instead, she was the “aircraft commander.”
“This is to say that on arrival at Trepassey of the tri-motor Fokker plane “FRIENDSHIP” if any questions of policy, procedure, personnel or any other question arises the decision of Miss Amelia M. Earhart is to be final,” a letter from Mrs. Guest’s attorney stated, shared in The Sound of Wings by Mary S. Lovell, via This Day In Aviation.
“That she is to have control of the plane and of the disposal of the services of all employees as fully as if she were the owner. And further, that on arrival of the plane in London full control of the disposition of the plane and of the time and services of employees shall be hers to the same extent until and unless the owner directs otherwise.”
Mr. Tornado is the remarkable story of the man whose groundbreaking work in research and applied science saved thousands of lives and helped Americans prepare for and respond to dangerous weather phenomena.
The Polio Crusade
The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease. The medical breakthrough saved countless lives and had a pervasive impact on American philanthropy that continues to be felt today.
Explore the life and times of L. Frank Baum, creator of the beloved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
First Lady of the Sky
by Laura Conrad
Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas July 24th, 1887. At the age of 23, she went to an air show with her dad in California and so began her desire to fly. She took her first flying lessons and a few months later bought her first airplane. A Kinner Airster Aircraft. She worked odd jobs so that she would have enough money to continue flying.
In 1932 she crossed the Atlantic in a solo flight. She was the first woman to do so and set a new record for speed. It took her fourteen hours. Inflight she used smelling salts to keep awake and brought a thermos of soup and a can of tomato juice for food. When she returned to New York City there was a ticker-tape parade. President Herbert Hoover personally awarded her a medal for her contribution to aviation, which she accepted modestly on behalf of ‘all women’. She became the most famous woman in the world during her lifetime, however she did not like the publicity or fame. She was a private person and said “My ambition is to have this wonderful gift produce practical results for the future of commercial flying and for the women who may want to fly tomorrow’s planes.”
On June 1. 1937 Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan took off from Miami, Florida to attempt the first around the world flight. It would be the first time for both man or woman to fly around the world at the equator. Some say the flight was doomed from the beginning. The first attempt to take off, the plane crashed. This didn’t stop Amelia, the plane was repaired and she took off successfully. Flying eastward, they stopped for fuel, repairs and rest in many cities along the way. On June 28 they landed in Lae, New Guinea. On July 2, they took off again with clear skies. After a stop in Howland, it would be straight to Honolulu then San Francisco and home. They’d completed 22,000 miles of the 29,000 mile trip. Only 7000 miles to go, when they vanished on July 2, 1937. The country was stunned and for weeks afterwards. There was full scale search for the plane. Nothing was found. Sadly the world began to accept the loss of Amelia Earhart.
The most probable explanation for her disappearance is that she and her copilot crashed into the ocean, dying on impact or drowning soon there after. However, there are a number of theories that believe she and her co-pilot survived. Was she a spy, sent by President Roosevelt? Was she then captured by the Japanese? Did she live out her life on an island in the South Pacific sipping coconut juice under the palms? There have been countless unconfirmed sightings and she could still be alive today. She would be 103! What ever happened to Amelia Earhart, our First Lady of the Sky, we honor her memory, her ambition and drive that opened the skies to women.
These Female Pilots Broke Down Barriers in Aviation
Only around three percent of the world’s pilots are women.
A mother of five and grandmother of eight, Babs Ambrose established Stono Farm Market and Tomato Shed Café, an organic vegetable farm on Johns Island in South Carolina. She founded a nonprofit, taught marketing to women entrepreneurs in Russia, served as the mayor, and—on top of her other responsibilities—held her pilot’s license. The farm’s central wide dirt road was called “the runway,” because it was, in fact, a runway. Babs shared that flying a plane gave her “an exhilarating sense of freedom,” and, as a woman, a particular feeling of accomplishment.
While Babs is not alone in her success, only an estimated three percent of the world’s pilots are women. From Valentina Tereshkova, to Bessie Coleman, to Amelia Earhart, it seems women pilots have a particular aptitude for shattering not one but multiple glass ceilings at a time.
Pilot Bessica Raiche was a linguist, artist, dentist, and began her own practice as one of the first American woman specialists in obstetrics and gynecology. In 1910, she was the first American woman to fly solo and took that flight on an airplane she built out of silk, bamboo, and wire in her living room. Born in 1906, “Speed Queen” Jacqueline Cochran was the first female pilot to break the sound barrier and the first pilot to fly above 20,000 feet without an oxygen mask. By 1980 she held more speed, distance, and altitude records than any other pilot, man or woman. Willa Brown was the first black female US-licensed pilot, the first African-American officer in the US Civil Air Patrol, and the first black woman to run for Congress.
At Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, the 99s Museum of Women Pilots pays homage to the history and current achievements of these courageous women in aviation with over 5,000 square feet of archives and constantly evolving displays. The museum boasts interactive exhibits, a flight simulator, and the largest collection of Amelia Earhart memorabilia, including her flight goggles and original pilot’s license.
Earhart was the first president and a founding member of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots that began in 1929 inside a Curtiss Airport hangar in Valley Stream, New York (their meeting tea was served from a tool box). The Ninety-Nines have been active now for almost ninety years—supporting the museum, gathering often for competitions and skill-building days, giving first flight experience to girls who have never flown before, and traveling on fun fly-outs with the “49 ½’s” (the 99s’ significant others).