- One of the most famous fliers of her day.
- A record-setting pilot.
- A promoter of aviation.
- A media star and celebrity.
- An inspiring role model for women.
- The tragic legend at the center of an enduring mystery.
One person described Amelia Earhart this way:
“A tall, slender boyish looking woman.… She had poise and charm. I liked…the frank direct look in her grey eyes.”
There were many reasons why Earhart was chosen to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Some people have suggested that she resembled Charles Lindbergh. Others pointed to her wholesome “All-American” personality. And, of course, she was an accomplished pilot who owned two airplanes and had logged 500 hours in the air.
1928—First woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger in the Fokker F.VII Friendship.
1929—Feminine speed record.
1930—Feminine speed record.
1931—First woman to fly an autogiro.
1931—Autogiro altitude record of 18,415 feet.
1932—First woman (and only the second person) to fly solo and nonstop across the Atlantic. Also first person to cross the Atlantic twice by air.
1932—First woman to fly solo and nonstop across the United States.
1933—Reset her transcontinental record.
1935—First person to fly solo from Honolulu, Hawaii, to the U.S. mainland (Oakland, California).
1935—Speed record between Mexico City and Washington, D.C.
1935—First person to fly solo from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey.
Fame made her a role model for women and girls. She encouraged them to take control of their own lives in terms of family, education, and careers. She lobbied for birth control rights, supported women in politics and business, and endorsed the draft for men, women, and even the elderly to promote equality and peace.
Earhart lobbied Congress for aviation legislation and promoted the safety and efficiency of air travel to women, on the premise that they would influence men. She held positions with two airlines and helped found two others.
“The public was skeptical of airplanes and air travel. We women of the Derby were out to prove that flying was safe: to sell aviation to the layman.”
—Louise Thaden, winner of the Women’s National Air Derby
Earhart set the first autogiro altitude record and made two autogiro cross-country tours, which were marked by three public “crack-ups,” as she called them. Though Earhart was the most famous woman pilot, she was not the most skilled.
Following a massive sea and air search, on July 18, 1937, they were declared lost at sea.
“I have a feeling that there is just one more flight in my system.”
—Amelia Earhart, June 1, 1937, Miami, Florida.
What happens when one of the world’s most popular media figures vanishes from the face of the earth? Earhart’s disappearance spawned countless theories involving radio problems, poor communication, navigation or pilot skills, other landing sites, spy missions and imprisonment, and even living quietly in New Jersey or on a rubber plantation in the Philippines.