Amelia Earhart: Mystery and True Heroine

“Wins Atlantic Race.” Indianapolis Times (Indianapolis, IN), June 18, 1928.

Is there anything more tantalizing than an unsolved mystery? For 82 years people have tried to discover what happened to Amelia Earhart, the renowned aviator who broke gender expectations and flight records. Earhart’s mysterious disappearance in her final flight has fueled many theories, as expeditions continue to search for her missing plane even now.

Earhart was a darling of her nation when she disappeared with her navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937. She had been in the headlines of newspapers constantly for almost ten years as she broke record after record with her flying. At first, when she became the first “girl” to fly across the Atlantic on June 17, 1928 (she was 30 years old at the time), newspapers weren’t quite sure what to make of her.

“Friendship Lands in Burry Port Estuary on Coast of Wales Carrying Amelia Earhart as Co-Pilot–Is First Girl to Cross Atlantic.” New Britain Herald (New Britain, CT), June 18, 1928.

“Give Women a Chance in the Air, Pleads Amelia Earhart.” Evening Star (Washington, DC), September 22, 1929.












Soon the novelty of her gender gave way to awe and respect for her accomplishments. The newspapers covered her journeys as she broke speed records, altitude records, crossed the country, and became the first person to fly solo over the Pacific from California to Hawaii. She gained thousands of fans around the country and the world.

“Amelia Earhart Near End of Flight: Pacific Flight is Successful for Aviatrix.” The Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), January 12, 1935.

“Wirephoto Shows Throng Engulfing Amelia Earhart’s Plane When She Lands at Oakland.” Evening Star (Washington, DC), January 13, 1935.












When news broke of her disappearance, people were hopeful and optimistic as a massive government rescue mission commenced, including an aircraft carrier with 54 planes, a Coast Guard ship, two destroyers and a battleship. But as the days wore on, it became clear that the famed pilot and her navigator might not be found. On July 19, 1937, the search was called off by the Navy and Amelia and Fred were presumed dead. The nation mourned the loss of their heroine of the skies.

“For Amelia Earhart.” Evening Star (Washington, DC), August 15, 1937.

So while we remember her today as the subject of one of the world’s greatest mysteries, in 1937 America remembered her as the brave pioneer woman who conquered flight. One of their own who had risked everything for adventure and progress. “You flew, my dear, straight to the world of God—,“ said her husband George Palmer Putnam, “There were no routes you had not chartered here.”

“My Life with Amelia Earhart.” Evening Star (Washington, DC), September 24, 1937.

To learn more about Amelia Earhart in the Library’s collections, take a look at these websites:

Amelia Earhart: Online Resources

Exploring Amelia Earhart with Library of Congress Primary Sources

To learn more about other female pilots, take a look at these guides:

Topics in Chronicling America – American Female Pilots

Topics in Chronicling America – Women and Aviation

Katherine Stinson the Flying Girl: Topics in Chronicling America

Pesky Details: The Authenticity of the Lincoln Flag

The flags decorating the theater box where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated were almost an afterthought, but they became central to the legend and lore surrounding his assassination. On April 14, 1865, just hours before the President arrived at Ford’s, John Ford, the proprietor of the theater, thought it appropriate to adorn the box where […]

The Kidnapping of Little Charley Ross

Don’t take candy from strangers. Little Charley Ross, the first missing child to make national headlines, made that mistake. During the summer of 1874, two men in a horse-drawn buggy pulled into an affluent neighborhood in Philadelphia and befriended two little boys who were playing in front of their stately home. For five days in […]

The Unsolved Mystery of Aaron Burr’s Daughter

Theodosia Burr Alston, the beloved daughter of disgraced vice president Aaron Burr, left the port of Georgetown, South Carolina on the schooner Patriot in 1812 and was never seen again. Throughout the 19th century, newspapers titillated readers with lurid stories of her alleged fate, including captivity, murder, and deathbed confessions of former pirates. Yet her […]