Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Mieography

Surely, you all recognize this friday's candidate. This Amelia Mary Earhart. She was born to Edwin, and Amelia "Amy" Earhart, in Atchison, Kansas. Her mother's family was very prominent in that town, and her maternal grandfather never really approved of her parents marriage. She was officially named after her two grandmothers, and nicknamed "Meeley", sometimes called Millie. She was the ringleader of their family, her little sister Grace "Pidge" as her follower.
Amy Earhart did not believe in molding her kids into "nice little girls", and, among other things, let them wear bloomers, much to their grandmothers consternation. The pair of sisters, Meeley and Pidge, set off daily to explore their neighborhood, climbing trees, hunting rats with rifles, and sledding. They collected many things, worms, moths, katydids, and a tree toads.
She had her first "flight" during her childhood, with a wooden box, and a ramp she put together fashioned after a roller coaster she'd seen in St. Louis, secured to the family toolshed. She emerged, with the broken box, a bruised lip, and a torn dress. It is said she told her sister "it's just like flying!"
Her father was transfered to Des Moines, Iowa, and Amelia saw her first aircraft at the Iowa state faire. Her father had tried to interest her, and her sister in a flight, but, the airplane looked too old and rickety, and Amelia asked to go back to the merry-go-rounds instead. Sje later described the plane as "a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting".
The girls ended up going back to Atchison, because their parents ended up in newer smaller quarters in Des Moines. She ended up homeschooled, with a particular love for reading. By the time she was 12 she was back with her parents, and in school in Des Moines. Her father, sadly, by this time, had a problem with alcohol, and could not maintain his job. Her maternal grandmother passed away, and left a substantial amount of money to her daughter, in trust only, fearing Edwin's alcoholism would take all the money. Her father finally found work, briefly, in Minnesota, but that fell through, and her mother ended up taking the children to Chicago to live. Amelia searched the area for the best science program in the high schools, and found Hyde Park High School, eventually. Sadly, she was miserable there, and her yearbook caption read "A.E, the girl in brown who walks alone". She graduated, and wanted a career, collecting newspaper articles about succesful women in male oriented fields. She started junior college, but World War I began, and she instead accepted nurses aide training fromt he Red Cross, and worked at a Military Hospital. She got sick herself, suffering from pneumonia, and sinusitis, requiring hospitalization. She ended up being discharged from the red cross, and had to have painful procedures done to wash out her sinus'. The procedures were not succesful, and she then began having severe headaches. She spent nearly a year with her sister in Massachussetts, recovering, reading poetry, learning to play the banjo, and studying mechanics. The chronic sinusitis affected her always.
When she was better, she went to an air show with a friend, in Toronto, Canada. There was an exhibition there by a flying "ace" of WW I, who, seeing she and her friend, had his airplane "dive" at them, expecting them to scamper away. She did not. As the airplane came closer, she said later "I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that the little red airplane said something to me as it swished by".
She enrolled in college at Columbia University, but, quit once again to be with her parents, whom had reunited in California. She was taken to an airfield, with her father, and she got the ride that would change her life. "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly". She worked a number of jobs, as a photographer, truck driver, a stenographer at the local phone company, and saved the money needed for lessons. Interestingly, she took lessons from a woman, Anita Snook. She got herself a leather jacket, and slept in it for three nights to give it a more worn look. Then she cut her hair short, like the other female flyers. Six months after her first lesson, she owned her own plane. It was bright yellow, and second hand, she nicknamed it "The Canary". She used this plane to set a world record in altitude for female pilots. She was the 16th woman to be issued a pilots license.
Amelia wasn't the best pilot, and had frequent mishaps. She frequently would seek out guidance and assistance from various instructors during her career. Her family eventually used up the inheritance from her grandmother, and Amelia had to sell her plane, as well as her automobile, "The Yellow Peril, a Kissel "Speedster". Not to mention her sinus problems returned, and she had to be hospitalized for another (unsuccessful) operation. Her parents ended up divorcing. She eventually, after travelling with her mother, ended up working as a teacher, and a social worker. She did continue to fly, however. She eventually became the vice president of the American Aeronautical Society in Boston. Her celebrity as a pilot began to grow. After Lindbergh made his solo flight across the Atlantic, Amelia got a phone call, asking "Would you like to fly the Atlantic?" She went, but as a passenger, keeping the log for the other pilots. While in England, she found another aircraft she liked, and had it flown back home. She gained lots of press from this trip, and was dubbed "Queen of the Air. She came back to the US, did a lecture tour, and authored a book. She also endorsed many products, including Lucky Strike Cigarettes, which caused her many image problems. She even promoted womens fashions, having her own line of clothing displayed at Macy's. ("A.E.") She also had a luggage line. All of this made it possible for her to fly. She began to fly competitively after this. She was the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. Slowly, her piloting skills became stronger. She began to dabble in racing, and continued to set altitude records. She also became involved with "The Ninety-Nines", a female pilot organization. She was their first president. She married George Putnam, after he proposed to her six times. She referred to her marriage as a "partnership" with "dual control". She wrote him a letter and had it hand delivered to him on their wedding day, writing "I want you to know I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly." They eventually moved to the west coast, after a fire destroyed their home. They had no children together, though Amelia was very fond of George's sons from his first marriage.
At the age of 34, Amelia became the first woman to fly solo non stop across the atlantic. For this she got the Distinguished Flying Cross, from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French, and the Gold Metal of the National Geographic Society from President Hoover. She became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt at this time, as well, whom actually flew with her. She completed many more solo flights during her career.
She disappeared, on her second attempt to fly around the world, somewhere near Howland Island. She was running out of gas, flying at 1000 feet. They never found her, or her co pilot, nor the Electra they were flying in. Her husband funded a search for her, for years. There are many many theories about her disappearance.


Anonymous said...

That is a great picture.

I really wonder what happened to her. I hope they figure it out someday.

Mary said...

She really does have an interesting story.

Mimi said...

I've always wondered what happened to her as well.

I really like Amelia Earhaert, and not just because if my youngest was a girl, he'd have been Amelia (it was my Great Grandmother's name)

Daryl said...

I suspect someday her remains will be found ... I think there needs to be a remake of her life as a film ..

Another eye opening bio, thanks, Mie!


Bubblewench said...

She was always one of my hero's as a child.. great post!

holly said...

wow. that was very comprehensive. i have been looking forward to this post (it has been up on my laptop for days now - i wanted to read it properly, not zip through it. i've said too much).

anyway, yay!

but gosh. i have been WWWAAAAY less sick than she. and waaaay less successful. no one's going to remember my software engineering. i need to get working on that 'software engineering across the atlantic' thing.