July Woman of the Month: Amelia Earhart

Written by Sophie Holbourne

Born on 24 July 1897 in Kansas, USA, Amelia Earhart was destined for great things.

From an early age she showed signs of courage and strength, becoming well known for being the ringleader to her dutiful sister, Grace. Amelia’s first encounter with flight left her feeling underwhelmed at first. At the age of ten, she ironically called an aeroplane “not interesting at all”. Later that day, a pilot spotted Amelia and her friend dismissing the aeroplane, so decided to thrill them. He flew his plane at quite some speed, then swooped down so near to Amelia that she should have jumped out of the way. Her courage led to her standing her ground. This thrill she felt set her on a path of greatness…

Her behaviour in the early 1900s contradicted that of societal expectations people held about women. Her tomboy attitudes and strong convictions allowed her to challenge the prejudice she faced. It could be argued that Amelia was inspired by women in stereotypical male roles. She kept a photo album of newspaper cuttings with successful women in male orientated roles.

After taking on jobs as a nurse during the Second World War and becoming a social worker, she saved up enough money to buy her first plane and have lessons in 1921. Her determination to fly allowed her to save the money in just 6 months! She named it The Canary and used it to set the women’s record for rising as a high as 14,000 feet. Instead of conforming to societal stereotypes, she broke the boundaries and literally soared to new heights. She showed women of the 1920s that they are capable of anything. This was just the start…

She received a call in 1928 inviting her to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. This was worldwide news. Three female pilots had died in that year trying to attempt this trip. During her preparation for the flight, she met her husband who was incredibly supportive of Amelia’s success, so much so that they referred to their marriage as a partnership with duel control so that Amelia could retain her independence.

With icy conditions during the trip, Amelia was forced to land in Londonderry, Ireland. She had completed the trip! She was the first female and the second person to ever survive the trip across the Atlantic. She received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment. This was ground-breaking. Amelia felt that this flight proved that men and women were equal in their roles, as the flight had now been completed by both a man and a woman.

After this, she continued to reach new heights by completing more and more trips. This included flying at an altitude of 18,000 and flying from Honolulu to California. She even drank a hot chocolate from 8,000 feet, calling it her most interesting hot chocolate.

Once she had reached her 40th birthday, she aimed to fly around the world for one last time. But this time, she aimed to be the first woman to fly around the world. A failed attempt in March of that year may have damaged her plane but not her confidence, and she continued with the knowledge that this trip could be fatal.

The trip started with Amelia and her navigator boarding the flight. They flew 7,000 miles of the 29,000 and had to land in New Guinea. Their next landing led them to Howland Island. This island was considerably small, meaning the amount of fuel they could take was small. Further on in the flight, the weather became turbulent and Amelia reported clouds back to base. The navigator could no longer use his preferred method and it became tricky to know where they were. Amelia reached out to a boat nearby, asking them to tell her where she was. Their response was quiet and hard for Amelia to hear. With fuel running low, and not knowing where they were, Amelia sent out her last message: “we are running north and south.” Nothing else was heard from her.

A rescue mission commenced immediately and was the most expensive naval search in history, costing $4 million to search 250,000 square miles. Amelia was never found, with no evidence of what happened that day. Her determination to strive for the best and her courage to fight in the face of danger is the attitude that I aspire to have in everything I do. The sheer bravery she showed will always show women in generations to come that we can do anything we put our minds to.

Amelia not only fought with danger but she also battled with stereotypical social constructs. Society told her she couldn’t, and that society was wrong…

In recognition of Amelia Earhart day on 24 July, this blog celebrates her bravery through life and death. To find out more, you can watch this video and learn more about the amazing Amelia Earhart.

Find out more about Amelia Earhart here or watch the video below.

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