On this day, 115 years ago, American aviatrix Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas. Learn more about the life of the distinguished aviation pioneer in this installment of Today in History.
You must have seen yet another beautiful doodle Google has created for today: an airplane-themed artwork made in honor of distinguished American aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, whose 115th birthday the world celebrates on this day.
On July 24, 1897, Amelia Mary Earheart was born to Samuel “Edwin” Stanton Earhart and Amelia “Amy” Otis Earhart in Atchison, Kansas. She was named, by family tradition, after her two grandmothers (Amelia Josephine Harres and Mary Wells Patton). As a young girl, “Meeley,” as she was fondly called, was bold and adventurous, spending long hours with her sister Grace Muriel (nicknamed “Pidge”) playing outdoors, climbing trees, and catching worms, moths, and other small animals for their collection.
One interesting story tells of the young Amelia’s so-called first flight when she was around seven. Asking her uncle for help, the would-be aviatrix managed to put together a homemade ramp modeled after a roller coaster she saw during a trip to St. Louis. After securing the ramp to the family’s tool shed, she took a wooden box and used it as a sled. Despite ending up with a bruised lip and torn dress, what made an impression on the young Amelia was the “sensation of exhilaration,” which she exclaimed to her sister, “Oh, Pidge, it’s just like flying!”
Later, Amelia exhibited an inclination for science studies and an interest in stories of women finding success in fields typically dominated by men. She would eventually find herself ranked among these women as a distinguished lady pilot and aviation pioneer.
In December 1920, during a visit to an airfield in Long Beach, Amelia had the 10-minute airplane ride that forever changed her life. “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly,” she said. She soon took several jobs to save $1,000 so she could take flying lessons.
In 1921, a few months after she began taking flying lessons, Amelia managed to purchase a secondhand Kinner Airster biplane which she called “The Canary” for its bright yellow color. On October 22, 1922, she flew “The Canary” to an altitude of 14,000 feet, which earned her a world record for female pilots. Amelia became the 16th woman to obtain a pilot’s license on May 15, 1923, given to her by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
Amelia eventually rose to prominence as an aviatrix after she successfully completed a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. On May 20, 1932, the 34-year-old Amelia set off in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B from Newfoundland with the intention of flying to Paris. However, after a challenging almost 15-hour flight, she landed on a pasture in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, her non-stop flight earned her two distinctions: the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and the Gold medal of the National Geographic Society awarded by US President Herbert Hoover. As she went to achieve several other successful flights, Amelia inevitably became a celebrity and an icon even outside the aviation world.
In 1937, Amelia attempted another world flight, but famously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. During the last leg of her flight from Lae, New Guinea to her destination, Howland Island, Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan lost radio contact and were never seen again. Their disappearance and possible whereabouts remain one of the longest-running mysteries to this day.
You may also want to read Last But Not the Least: Amelia Earhart's Last Photo.