What is the big mystery surrounding Amelia Earhart?
Special to the Whig
Dear Librarian: What is the big mystery surrounding Amelia Earhart?
Dear Reader: There has always been a bit of a mystery around Earhart, due to the fact that she disappeared along with her navigator during an attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world. There are many theories about what happened on that flight, but Earhart is foremost remembered for her courage and groundbreaking achievements, both in aviation and for women.
If we go back to when Earhart was a young girl in the 1900s, she always fought the occasional disapproval of being a bit of a tomboy. She loved to climb trees, “belly slam” her sled downhill, and she hunted rats with a .22 rifle. Even at a young age, she felt defiant about what was expected of her and kept a scrapbook of clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields.
Earhart first felt the pull of the sky in her teens, when she attended a stunt-flying exhibition with a friend. A pilot spotted them and thought he’d give them a thrill… diving his plane down at them on the ground. Earhart stood her ground and she said later, “I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”
On Dec. 28, 1920, pilot Frank Hawks gave her a ride on a flight. That forever changed her life and she knew she had to fly.
She finally took her first flying lesson on Jan. 3, 1921, and in only six months’ time she managed to buy her first airplane, a second-hand Kinner Airster. It was a bright yellow two-seater biplane and she named it “The Canary.” She set her first women’s flying record in it by flying at an altitude of 14,000 feet.
In April of 1928, a group that included book publisher George P. Putnam asked Earhart if she’d like to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic. She immediately jumped into the project. Her team included pilot Wilmer “Bill” Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis E. “Slim” Gordon. They left Newfoundland, Canada, in a Fokker F7 on June 17, 1928, and arrived in Wales about 21 hours later. Their success was hugely celebrated with a tickertape parade in New York and a reception by President Coolidge.
Earhart went on in May of 1932 (five years to the day after Lindbergh took his historic flight) to become the first woman and the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic. Earhart felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelli- gence, coordination, speed, coolness and willpower.”
As Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for her biggest challenge: she wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. On June 1, 1937, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, left from Miami and began the 29,000 mile journey. By June 29, when they landed in New Guinea, they had completed all but 7,000 miles of the trip. Their next hop to Howland Island was the most challenging and it was during that flight that contact was lost with them. The rescue attempt was the most extensive air and sea search in naval history at that time.
In a letter to her husband before her final flight she wrote, “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
Last Week’s Trivia Question: When did “lunch” become known as a midday meal? Answer: In the early 1900s, women had formal luncheons. It was not until 1945 that lunch became an informal midday meal.
This Week’s Trivia Question: Which of Amelia Earhart’s airplanes is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in D.C.?
Upcoming Event: You can “meet” Amelia Earhart at 6 p.m. on April 20 when Mary Ann Jung brings to life the fascinating story of Earhart in this special, after-hours event. Call 410-996-1134 to register for “History Alive — Flying High with Amelia Earhart.”
What People Are Asking runs weekly in Jumpstart and is written by librarians at the Cecil County Public Library. Questions? Visit your local branch, email email@example.com, call 410-996-5600 or visit www.cecil. ebranch.