Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897 in Kansas, the daughter of Edwin and Amy Earhart. At the age of three, she was sent to live with her grandmother. She raised Amelia during her early childhood. She enjoyed her life with her grandparents. But her grandmother was timid, and a worrier, and did not approve of Amelia's tomboy tendencies, so Amelia kept her pony-riding, tree-climbing, snow-sledding, and hunting activities to herself. Her parents were only 50 miles away, and she summered with them, so she remained close to them during these years.
When she was seven, her father Edwin took the family to the St. Louis World's Fair, where, on riding the Ferris wheel, she learned that she rather enjoyed heights. From the first grade, she attended the College Preparatory School in Atchison. Amelia was bright, but her independent spirit and lack of interest in recitation did not endear her to the teachers. In high school, cheerleading was not enough for her; she wanted to play on the basketball team.
The odd family arrangement (Amelia living with her grandparents in Atchison, her younger sister Muriel with the girls' parents in Kansas City) lasted until Amelia was ten, when she rejoined with her mother and father.
Her father Edwin was well-educated, but tended to the impractical. His in-laws, the Otises, helped him out a lot, but Edwin's extravagance remained a problem. In 1908, he got a new job, with the Rock Island railroad, which required him to move to Des Moines. Amelia joined them in Iowa, and saw her first airplane, at the 1908 Iowa State Fair. For a few years, Edwin did well, moving into newer, larger houses almost every year, as his income grew. But his spendthrift nature won out, and he kept living beyond his means, and increasingly turning to alcohol.
The death of Amelia's grandparents, the Otises, was the final blow. The Otises were quite wealthy, with an estate worth over $170,000 (a huge sum in those days). While the will sought to provide for the grandchildren, it excluded Edwin and Amy. A lengthy, messy struggle ensued. During this time, Edwin had lost his job, and was forced to accept a menial position in St. Paul, which required another family move, to Minnesota.
When the United States entered World War One in 1917, Amelia was drawn in and served as a nurse with the Volunteer Aid Detachment of St. John Ambulance Brigade.
She took her first ride in an airplane in 1920. After her flight with barnstormer Frank Hawks, she said "As soon as we left the ground, I knew, I myself had to fly." Indeed, within a few days, she took her first flying lesson. Six months later, she bought her own airplane, a yellow Kinner Airster, that she dubbed "The Canary." She was not a naturally gifted pilot, but she persevered, built up her flying time, and even broke the woman's altitude record in 1922. The mid-Twenties were difficult years for Amelia. Her mother finally divorced Edwin, thus ending that part of Amelia's family life. She studied at Columbia for a time, but lack of money compelled her to withdraw. She had a long-term engagement to one Sam Chapmen, but they never married. She was active in aviation and social work, living in Medford, Massachusetts for a time. She flew whenever she could, distributing free passes to a carnival on one occasion, and was active in Boston aviation circles.
She became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic on June 18-19, 1928. The flight was the brainchild of Amy Guest, a wealthy, aristocratic American expatriate living in London. Aware of the huge publicity that would accrue to the first woman to fly the Atlantic, the 55 year old Mrs. Guest had purchased a Fokker F7 trimotor, to make the flight herself. Her family objected, and she relented, as long as the "right sort" of woman could make the flight. The "right sort" would take a good picture, be well-educated, and not be a publicity-seeking gold-digger. The Guest family hired George Putnam, a New York publicist to look for a suitable women pilot. He selected the little-known Amelia Earhart, and introduced her as "Lady Lindy".
While the flight instantly made her world-famous, she was little more than a passenger in the Fokker tri-motor "Friendship." They took off from Trepassy, Newfoundland, and after a 20 hour and 40 minute flight, landed in Burry Port, Wales. When they went on to London, another huge mob welcomed them. The pilots, Wilmer Stutz and Louis Gordon, were all but forgotten in the media frenzy surrounding the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.
During an attempt to become the first woman to fly around the world, Earhart along With her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean about 100 miles from the tiny Pacific atoll, Howland Island. President Roosevelt authorized an immediate search. However no trace was ever found. Over the years, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart has spawned almost as many conspiracy theories as the Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Kennedy Assassination. Fascination with her life, career and disappearance continues to this day.
Amelia Earhart was declared legally dead, January 5, 1939.
As soon as we left the ground, I knew I had to fly