(b. July 24, 1897, Atchison, Kan., U.S.-disappeared July 2, 1937, near Howland Island, central Pacific Ocean)
One of the world’s most celebrated aviators, Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly alone over the Atlantic Ocean.
Amelia Mary Earhart moved often with her family and completed high school in Chicago in 1916. She worked as a military nurse in Canada during World War I and as a social worker at Denison House in Boston after the war. She learned to fly (against her family’s wishes) in 1920–21 and in 1922 bought her first plane, a Kinner Canary.
On June 17–18, 1928, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, although she was only a passenger in a plane flown by Wilmer Stutz and Louis Gordon. The same year, her reflections on that flight were published as 20 Hrs., 40 Min. She married the publisher George Palmer Putnam in 1931 but continued her career under her maiden name.
Determined to justify the renown that her 1928 crossing had brought her, Earhart crossed the Atlantic alone on May 20–21, 1932. Her flight in her Lockheed Vega from Newfoundland to Ireland was completed in the record time of 14 hours 56 minutes. After that flight, she wrote The Fun of It (1932). This soon led to a series of flights across the United States and drew her into the movement that encouraged the development of commercial aviation.
She also took an active part in efforts to open aviation to women and end male domination in the new field. In January 1935 she made a solo flight from Hawaii to California, a longer distance than that from the United States to Europe. Earhart was the first person to fly that hazardous route successfully; all previous attempts had ended in disaster.
She set out in 1937 to fly around the world, with Fred Noonan as her navigator, in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra. After completing more than two-thirds of the distance, her plane vanished in the central Pacific near the International Date Line. Although her mysterious disappearance has since raised many questions and much speculation about the events surrounding it, the facts remain largely unknown.