Amelia Earhart

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“Earhart after she arrived in Southampton,” 1928. Copyright Leslie Jones. CC-BY-NC-ND. Courtesy of Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.

Since her rise to fame, Amelia Earhart has become the most well-known representative of early American women in flight. Though she’d been a pilot since 1921, she caught the world’s attention when she became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a plane in 1928 (as a passenger, not a pilot). She decided to parlay her newfound icon status into advocating for aviation and for a place for women in the cockpit.

Earhart was one of the founding members of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots founded in 1929 and named after its first member count. Most early female aviation milestones were attained by members of the Ninety-Nines and the organization continues today. Earhart herself served as president in 1931.

In addition to her advocacy work, Earhart made daring flights and captured the world’s attention. She was the first woman and second person to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932. That same year she also became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent.

Her most ambitious record attempt, to fly around the world, was also her last. She and her navigator, Fred Noonan, vanished over the Pacific Ocean, en route to Howland Island, in 1937. The mystery surrounding her disappearance continues to this day, as does her legacy of courage and advocacy for women’s equality.