It’s become fashionable in some circles to remember Amelia Earhart as a somewhat flaky, irresponsible aviatrix who is mostly famous because she got lost. She is often portrayed in movies and books as somewhat irresponsible, even a dilettante.
This is far from the truth. Amelia Earhart was a tireless champion of women’s rights. She wasn’t just about flying, either. She constantly tried to help young women enter fields of math, science, engineering, and other traditionally male dominated roles. She studied hard in school, tried to learn as much science as she could, and even picked a high school based on the science programs available there. She earned most of the money for her flying career and took many jobs, sometimes two or three at a time, to pay for it.
She worked as a nurse’s aide during the aftermath of world war I, she worked for the phone company at one point, she drove a gravel truck, she was an author, she worked as a social worker in a settlement house as well as many other jobs. At one point she drove across the country in a two seat sports car at a time before the interstate system was even in place. She learned to fly multiengine aircraft, set numerous records, and flew a type of aircraft called an autogyro across the country as well.
Once, she was in position to win an air race but another pilot had cracked up their airplane. Instead of continuing on to win, she saved the other pilot’s live and then got back in the air to win second place. She was more interested in doing the right thing than winning the prize money.
She got together with Charles Lindbergh, and started America’s first airline, TAT. It went through many evolutions and name changes and eventually became Delta Airlines.
Yes, Amelia took advantage of publicity. She used it as a tool to try to advance the cause of women. She did some stunt flying for fun, and some to prove that women could. She supported other female pilots and helped create an organization for them, called the 99s. She encouraged people to follow their dreams and not be limited by their sex or social position.
She wasn’t the best pilot, nor did she claim to be. She loved what she did and she wanted other people to love what they did, too. The more I have learned about her, the more inspired I have become. She didn’t hold herself above people or claim to be the greatest, instead she tried to inspire people so that they could join her in the sky.