Speaking of women, this is the end of Women of Aviation Awareness Week.
Amelia Earhart (pictured) is kind of a hero to me. When I owned a small fitness studio for women, I had a large framed photo of Amelia hanging on my wall. It was a gift from my son.
Amelia Mary Earhart, born on July 24, 1897, was an American aviation pioneer and author. She was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Amelia and her younger sister, Grace, had an unconventional upbringing. Their mother, Amy, did not believe in moldering her children into “nice little girls.” Therefore, a spirit of adventure seemed to abide in the Earhart children.
They spent their days exploring and climbing trees and hunting rats with a rifle. They kept worms and moths and katydids and tree toads.
At age seven, with the help of an uncle, she put together a home-made ramp modeled after a roller coaster she had seen on a trip to St. Louis, and secured the ramp to the roof of the family toolshed. Her first flight ended dramatically. She emerged from the broken wooden box that had served as a sled with a busted lip, torn dress and a “sensation of exhilaration.” She exclaimed to her littler sister: “Oh Pidge (Grace’s nickname), it’s just like flying!”
In Long Beach, on December 28, 1920, Earhart and her father visited an airfield where Frank Hawks (who later gained fame as an air racer), gave her a ride that would forever change her life.
“By the time I got two or three hundred feet off the ground,” she said, “I knew I had to fly.” She was extremely persistent in her goal, never losing sight of that love.
During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Electra, Earhart and navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.
Through a series of misunderstandings or errors, the final approach to Howland Island using radio navigation was not successful. Fred Noonan had earlier written about problems affecting the accuracy of radio direction finding in navigation.
There has been considerable speculation on what happened to Earhart and Noonan. Most historians hold to the simple “crash and sink” theory, but a number of other possibilities have been proposed.
A new forensic analysis suggests that bones found on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1940, and subsequently lost, could very well have been those of Amelia Earhart. The claims are that she died as an island castaway.
There have been twelve expeditions to Nikumaroro since 1989. Evidence of campfires, as well as remains of birds, fish, turtles and clams, indicating someone ate there. Based on the way clams were opened and the fish consumed (the heads weren’t eaten), that someone was probably not a Pacific islander. Fascinating.
Several 1930s-era glass bottles were also discovered at the site. One of them may have contained freckle cream, a cosmetic Earhart was known to use. Oh my goodness. She was fearless and tough as nails but still used freckle cream.
I love the story of Amelia Earhart. I also love the little tidbits about her. She wanted to fit in and wear a leather flying jacket like the male pilots. She purchased one and then slept in it for several days or weeks to make it look “worn”. She also chopped off her long hair to look like the other (few) female pilots of the time.
In every photo I see of Amelia, she has that beautiful closed lip smile. Research has unveiled that she had a gap between her two front teeth and photographers urged her to smile “closed lips” in order to hide the dental “flaw”.
Amelia was 40 years old when she disappeared. I am 60 years old and I still have not ridden a big roller coaster.
In her honor, I vow to get on one this summer. Or better yet, perhaps I will make one in my back yard. If I come away with only a busted lip and a torn dress, I will consider myself quite lucky.
Happy Women of Aviation Week to Amelia and to all of the other women aviators inspired by her.
May we all have a passion to soar.