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Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart, 1921

Aviator. Born: July 24, 1897, Atchison, Kansas.  Married: George Palmer Putnam, February 7, 1931. Died: July 1937.

Amelia Mary Earhart was born July 24, 1897, in Atchison, to Samuel Edwin Stanton and Amelia (Otis) Earhart. She and her younger sister, Grace Muriel, lived in the home of their grandfather, Alfred Otis, and attended a private school. Earhart was inspired to create a home version of the roller coaster she saw at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The car and passenger tipped over at the edge of the roof but she said it was "just like flying." In 1908 the family moved to Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, as her father searched for work.

George Putnam and Amelia Earhart

During World War I Earhart worked as a nurse’s aide with the Red Cross and after the war as a social worker in Boston. When her parents relocated to California, she moved to Long Beach and there in 1921 began flying lessons with Neta Snook. She soon bought an airplane and the following year broke the women's altitude record. The 1928 trans-Atlantic flight of the Fokker Friendship launched Earhart's career and established her name. As a passenger on the flight, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and wrote of her experience in 20 Hrs. 40 Min., published by George Palmer Putnam. Earhart and Putnam married February 7, 1931.

Earhart set a record flying solo across the Atlantic in her Lockheed Vega. She flew the 14-hour, 56-minute flight from Newfoundland to Ireland in May 1932. That year Earhart was elected president of the Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots. She set more records—the first woman to fly solo nonstop coast to coast and the first person to solo over the Pacific from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, California.

Amelia Earhart in Atchison parade, 1935

On public speaking tours, Earhart encouraged women to follow their dreams. She accepted an appointment at Purdue University, which helped finance her airplane. On March 17, 1937, she began her 29,000-mile flight around the equator with a crew of three—Fred Noonan, Harry Manning, and Paul Mantz. Departing from Oakland, California, the flight headed west to Hawaii. Earhart had difficulty during takeoff in Honolulu and the Electra sustained heavy damage. Following repairs, Earhart and Noonan departed from Miami, Florida, on June 1 and headed east. At approximately 22,000 miles into the flight, they landed June 29 in Lae, New Guinea. On July 2 they departed for their 2,556-mile flight to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Itasca, was assigned to track the plane during this leg of the flight. The Electra's last transmission was received by the Itasca at 8:43 a.m. A large search effort was begun to find the lost Electra. Earhart and Noonan were never found, and their disappearance remains a mystery to this day.

View primary sources related to Amelia Earhart in Kansas Memory

Inducted into the Kansas Walk of Honor in 2012

Guest commentary on Kansas Public Radio: Amelia Earhart

Entry: Earhart, Amelia

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: August 2002

Date Modified: June 2018

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.