On July 24, 1897, Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, KY. She grew up to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, as well as the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Hawaii to the continental United States. Then, in 1937, during her attempt to circumnavigate the globe by plane, Earhart disappeared over the Pacific. To this day, the allure of the adventurous Earhart continues. Her disappearance remains one of the greatest mysteries of the twentieth century.
Earhart’s aviation aspirations first took flight when she attended a flying expo in Toronto in 1917. A pilot flew his plane near her and she saw it as a sign: “I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.” Three years later, Earhart took a short plane ride in California that sealed the deal on her desire to fly: “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly.” She saved up money for flying lessons and by 1923 she was the sixteenth woman to get a flying license.
In June 1928, Earhart was dubbed “Lady Lindy” by the press when she flew in a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. However, the comparison to Charles Lindbergh, the first person to make a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean, was a bit premature. She was mostly a passenger on this first journey. When Earhart landed, in an interview she admitted, “I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” She also added, “… maybe someday I’ll try it alone.”
Try it alone, she did. In May 1932, Earhart became the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic Ocean. She followed up the feat on August 24, 1932, when she completed the first successful coast-to-coast flight for a woman. She completed the flight, from Los Angeles, Calif. to Newark, NJ, in a record 19 hours and five minutes.
Earhart’s next goal was to be the first woman to fly around the globe. After leaving Miami on June 1, 1937, Earhart and her co-pilot Fred Noonan made it all the way to New Guinea by June 29. However, after taking off on June 30, 1937, the duo disappeared on the final stretch somewhere in the Pacific.
After months of fruitless searching, they were both declared dead on January 5, 1939. Right before her final flight, she had ominously told her husband, “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards, I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
In March 2018, a new study revealed that bones found on the Pacific Island of Nikumaroro in 1940 are most likely those of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart.