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.
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.
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.
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.”
To learn more about Amelia Earhart in the Library’s collections, take a look at these websites:
To learn more about other female pilots, take a look at these guides: