EPISODE XVII AMELIA EARHART: DISAPPEARANCE AND LEGACY

Many of us know the name Amelia Earhart, and most who are familiar almost immediately think about her tragic disappearance along with navigator Fred Noonan. The defining image of Amelia as an aviation pioneer lives beyond her death as perennial reminder to all those willing to push through their own personal barriers and dream big - beyond anything ever dreamed before. This is her legacy. We are here tonight to talk about the life of this amazing woman and the inspiration she continues to have in our world today.

 Young Earhart, date unknown.

Young Earhart, date unknown.

Amelia was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison Kansas. She was the second child of Samuel Stanton Earhart and Amelia Otis, but the eldest of the children as the first child was stillborn. She was followed two years later by her younger sister Grace, who was often the Tonto to Amelia’s lone ranger, so to speak. The two shared many adventures together over the course of their childhood, adventures that often led to Amelia’s portrayal as a tomboy, climbing trees, catching all sorts of bugs and always yearning for new thrills.  At an early age Amelia developed an adamant love of reading and learning and for the first years of her education, she was homeschooled at her Grandmother’s estate in Atchison until entering public school at the age of twelve. Amelia and her sister experienced many trials and tribulations, among them being their father who had issues with employment and alcohol abuse, but the two girls persevered. Adolescent Amelia kept an inspirational scrapbook of successful women in male-dominated fields such as law, medicine, film direction and more that encapsulated her aspirations from an early age onward.

On December 28, 1920, Amelia visited her first airfield with her father in Long Beach, where she experienced her first flight and the catalyst for all the dreams she would eventually achieve. It was after this moment Amelia would say she was destined to fly. She had her very first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, where she was introduced to Anita Snook, a fellow female aviation pioneer that would take Amelia’s ambitions to new heights. Despite health and financial issues that would stall Amelia’s ambitions temporarily, Earhart was destined to take to the skies and upon meeting her future husband G.E. Putnam, her future as America’s Aviation Sweetheart was secured. Inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s solo Atlantic crossing, Earhart planned her own flight and was the first woman to successfully cross the Atlantic - as a passenger, much to Amelia’s dismay.

 Earhart and Snook, date unknown.

Earhart and Snook, date unknown.

The following year Amelia began to spend a great deal of time with G.E Putnum, who quickly fell in love with Earhart. After six requests Amelia finally agreed to marry her longtime Publicist and the two were wed on February 7th, 1931. But Amelia was always hesitant to wed, fearing she would lose her independence as a female flyer, and shortly after she and Putnum tied the knot Amelia began to plan her solo Transatlantic flight, something that had not been attempted since Lindberg’s success in 1927.

Amelia would again cross the Atlantic in 1932 - this time as a solo female pilot, setting another world record as she successfully landed in Northern Ireland. This was followed by an amorous public media campaign that successfully placed Earhart in the ranks as the world’s preeminent ‘Queen of the Skies’, as the papers later dubbed her. Of course, there were other female pilots on the scene, but Amelia’s star outshined all of them due to the hard work and successful campaigning by Putnam and herself. It was after this achievement that Amelia set her sights on going around the world, the ultimate aviation challenge and Amelia’s way to further prove to herself that she was a free bird soaring amongst the world’s skylines.

In 1937, with the help of Putnum, Amelia developed a flourishing relationship with Perdue University, the school that would eventually finance her very own Lockheed Electra Aircraft, fully equipped for a flight around the globe. After several years of preparation Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan, prepared for their circumnavigation feat. They took off from Oakland California on March 17th making the first leg to Honolulu. However after this first successful step, their take off from Honolulu failed and Amelia’s Lockheed Electra was sent skidding down the runway, damaging the craft and forcing Earhart and Noonan to start from scratch.

 Earhart and husband Putnam, 1931.

Earhart and husband Putnam, 1931.

After additional funding was secured and the Aircraft was repaired, Earhart and Noonan reversed their flight path, deciding to fly West to East, Making Honolulu their final stop rather than the first. And so on June 1st, 1937, They took off from Miami travelling through all the places Amelia had dreamed of since she was a little girl, through South America and Africa, soaring over remote wonders of the world, and finally arriving in Lae New Guinea on June 29th.

Amelia and Fred were now on the final leg of their record-breaking journey. However, this is where their story goes dark. Departing from Lae, New Guinea on July 2nd, 1937 Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean without a trace...  

Join us on Into The Portal for a special interview with Chris Williamson from The Chasing Earhart Podcast as we discuss her mysterious disappearance and the legacy of Amelia Earhart.

Earhart with her Lockheed Electra.jpg