Monday, 24 July 2006

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Mary Earhart (July 24, 1897 – missing as of July 2, 1937), daughter of Edwin and Amy Earhart, was an American aviator and noted early female pilot who mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during a circumnavigational flight in 1937.

Earhart was born in her grandfather's home in Atchison, Kansas. Amelia's grandfather was Alfred Otis, a former federal judge and a leading citizen in Atchison who reportedly was not satisfied with her father Edwin's own success as a lawyer, which is said to have contributed to the break up of her family. Some biographers have speculated that this history of disapproval and doubt followed Amelia throughout her childhood as a tomboy and into her adult flying career.

As a girl she is said to have spent long hours playing with her little sister Muriel ('Pidge') along with climbing trees, “belly-slamming” her sled downhill and hunting rats with a rifle.

At the age of ten (1907), in Des Moines, Iowa, Amelia saw an airplane at the Iowa State Fair. She later described it as “…a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting.”

Amelia was twelve when her father Edwin, by then a railroad executive, was promoted and the family's finances improved. However it soon became apparent Edwin was an alcoholic.

Five years later, in 1914, he was fired from The Rock Island Railroad. Amy Earhart took Amelia and Muriel to Chicago where they lived with friends. She sent the girls to private schools using money from a trust fund set up by her grandfather Alfred. Amelia graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1915, then went to Canada where she visited her sister at school.

She received training as a nurse's aide and, in November 1918, began work at Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto, Ontario.

By 1919 Earhart had enrolled at Columbia University to study pre-med but quit a year later to be with her parents who had got together again in California. Later in Long Beach she and her father went to a stunt-flying exhibition and the next day she went on a ten minute flight.

Earhart had her first flying lesson at Kinner Field near Long Beach. Her teacher was Anita Snook, a pioneer female aviator. Six months later Earhart purchased a yellow Kinner Airster biplane which she named "Canary." On October 22, 1922, she flew it to an altitude of 14,000 feet, setting a women's world record.

On May 15, 1923 Earhart was the 22nd woman to be issued a pilot's license by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI).