Amelia Earhart is possibly the most popular female pilot in the world. She defied gender stereotypes that, up until then, kept aviation a male-dominated occupation. Her death, on the other hand, is surrounded by mystery, that experts still have not solved. By no means is Amelia Earhart the first female pilot, nor was she considered the best during her time. For the most part, Earhart’s fame is due to the work she did on the ground, and not so much to her skills as a pilot. Still, Earhart was endeared in history because of her courage and strong convictions, as this expository essay will demonstrate, both in taking on challenges as a pilot and for her advocacy for equality.
Amelia Earhart’s Youth
Amelia Earhart’s youth was not easy. Although her mother is from an affluent family, her father, who was a lawyer, suffered from alcoholism and thus found difficulty establishing his career (Biography.com Editors n.p.). Earhart and her sister spent a part of their childhood in their maternal grandparent’s house. There, the sisters explored the neighborhood, rode sleds, climbed trees, and took on adventures of their own despite their grandmother’s disapproval (Rich 4). Earhart was described as a tomboy because of her preference for athletic activities and bloomer suits.
After graduating high school, Earhart visited her sister in Toronto, Canada where she became interested in caring for the wounded soldiers returning from World War I. She volunteered as a nurse’s aide for the Red Cross before she could finish junior college. As a nurse’s aide, Earhart came to know wounded pilots. She admired the pilots but was yet to find her career path as a pilot. In fact, she enrolled in medical studies at Columbia University but quit after a year to reunite with her parents in California.
The Start Of Earhart’s Career
Earhart’s love for flying was awakened when she attended a stunt-flying exhibition and a pilot dove in front of her and her friend. According to Earhart, she felt both fear and pleasure as she watched the plane swoop by her. It was in that moment that flying piqued her interest: “I did not understand it at the time,” she admitted, “but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by” (The Family of Amelia Earhart n.p.). However, she finally decided to become a pilot on December 1920 when she rode on a plane with Frank Hawks (The Family of Amelia Earhart n.p.). From then on, Earhart worked a variety of jobs to pay for flying lessons with pioneer female aviator Anita Snook (Biography.com Editors n.p.). Snook considered Earhart “a natural” but often found her adventurous spirit dangerous (Rich 28). Evidently, Earhart’s adventurous spirit that would later manifest in her attempts to fly solo around the world has always been present.
Then, in 1921, she bought her first plane. It was a second-hand two-seater Kinner Airster that Earhart painted bright yellow and called the “Canary” (Rich 33). Although Earhart is not one of the first female aviators, she still had to overcome numerous obstacles for being a woman who wanted to become a pilot. First and foremost, she had to work multiple jobs in order to afford flying lessons and her own plane. She continued to work even as she started to work on her career as a pilot. Second, her parents did not approve of her desire to become a pilot and only allowed her to pursue aviation when she proved that there were women in the field (Rich 27). Lastly, there were not many opportunities for female pilots at the time. Although there were a number of female pilots, they were still few compared with the number of male pilots. Shortly after purchasing the Canary, Earhart had to sell it and work as a teacher then social worker to support her family (Biography.com Editors n.p.). In this context, with her steadfast convictions, Earhart broke aviation records for women and became feminist in her own right.
Earhart’s first accomplishment as an aviator happened on October 22, 1922. She flew her plane to 14,000 feet—this is a first among female pilots in the world (The Family of Amelia Earhart n.p.). In 1923, Earhart received her pilot’s license from The Federation Aeronautique, the world governing body for aeronautics. These first round of accomplishments put Earhart on the map in the aviation industry.
Earhart rose to a sort of celebrity status writing about Kinner’s planes in relation to her flying. This is perhaps one of the reasons Captain Hilton H. Railey asked her to fly with him across the Atlantic. Although she was legally registered as one of the Captains, Earhart, for the most part, remained a passenger (Rich 60). She was chosen by the publisher George Palmer Putnam partly due to her resemblance to the first pilot to cross the Atlantic solo, Charles Lindbergh partly because of her gender (Rich 46-47). The flight aboard the Friendship was a success and, upon the urging of Putnam, Earhart wrote a personal narrative of the flight and published a book 20 Hrs. 40 Min.. Putnam was steadfast in creating a heroine out of Earhart, who for her part was amenable because she wanted to promote aviation as a field for women. Putnam promoted Earhart as such through the book, lecture tours, and product endorsements.
Amid her fame, Earhart continued to attempt at world records for aviation, on top of joining races. She placed third at the Cleveland Women’s Air Derby (The Family of Amelia Earhart n.p.). Then, in 1932, Earhart attempted to be the first woman and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic (The Family of Amelia Earhart n.p.). She was to fly from Newfoundland to Paris, but was forced by the harsh weather and mechanical problems to land in Londonderry, Ireland. Despite the failed attempt, Earhart received media attention and was awarded a gold medal from the National Geographic Society, presented by President Hoover, and the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Congress (The Family of Amelia Earhart n.p.).
Earhart also flew to an altitude of 18,415 feet with an autogyro—a record that stood for some time. In 1935, she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific (Honolulu to Oakland, California), then from Mexico to Newark (Rich 201). In 1937, Earhart decided to attempt to fly around the world solo. With her navigator aboard, she started in Miami and landed in Lae, New Guinea (Long & Long 133). Her next stop was Howland Island, a small island in the middle of the Pacific (Long & Long 133). It was a difficult island to navigate but the people in the island cooperated by turning on every light they had to make the island easier to spot from above while the US Coast Guard nearby maintained radio contact. As Earhart reached the Pacific, the weather became cloudy, which not only made it difficult to navigate and find the island, but also made radio communication difficult. Having flown around the Pacific trying to find Howland Island, at 7:42 AM, Earhart reported running low on fuel. The last communication from Earhart was recorded at 8:45 AM where she said “[w]e are running north and south” (Long & Long 30). What followed after is a long search. The US government spent $4 million looking for Earhart and her navigator’s remains, but none were found (Amelia Earhart Foundation n.p.). The mystery of Earhart’s death is as much a significant part of her fame as her aviation feats.
Earhart’s legacy is characterized by her love for adventurer and her unwavering advocacy not just to open up the aviation industry to women but to enable women to work in any industry. She welcomed the publicity and media attention for this very reason. She also strived to be a role model for women of her time. She balanced her daring spirit with a gracious persona so as to endear herself not just to women but to all of the world. As this expository essay sample shows, although Earhart’s last attempt at a world record for aviation was unsuccessful, Earhart remains an iconic historical and feminist figure in American history.
The Family of Amelia Earhart. “Biography.” Amelia Earhart Website. https://www.ameliaearhart.com/biography/
Biography.com Editors. Amelia Earhart. The Biography.com Website. 2 Apr 2014. https://www.biography.com/explorer/amelia-earhart
Long, Elgen M. and Marie K. Long. Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved. Simon & Schuster, 1999. https://books.google.com.ph/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Gc1-98NLfEYC&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=amelia+earhart&ots=G79xh7gyCF&sig=T-IdlrOEOM4p6dQVHZ0O2zlbMLE&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false
Rich, Doris L. Amelia Earhart: A Biography. Washington DC: Smithsonian Books, 1989. https://books.google.com.ph/books?hl=en&lr=&id=AKVqBgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=amelia+earhart&ots=kXhtGE8ZdU&sig=jQpv2DhGTLqDfQRx3INRlCy4Hn4&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false