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Amelia Earhart - An Aviator Hero

July 24th, 2012 Inspirational

Amelia Earhart defied not only gravity, but the prejudiced gender roles that plagued early 20th century American society. Her ability to undertake daring risks with aplomb and a headstrong willingness was unprecedented in any man or woman. While her untimely and mysterious disappearance still remains a mystery to historians and admirers, her legend is crystal clear, ingrained in history books and the hearts of every underdog.

Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchinson, Kansas. From an early age, she demonstrated a tenacity and daringness through her tomboy activities in the rural country environment. According to AmeliaEarhart.com, her first experience with planes came when she was at a state fair, but the floating vessel did little to enthrall her. It was not until she saw a stunt-flying show that she first garnered a fascination for aviation.

In 1920, this passion for being airborne was enhanced when she was able to ride along with a pilot. Even though it only lasted 10 minutes, the flight had a profound effect. "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly," she said.

After leaving her finishing school to be a nurse's aide in a military hospital during WWII, she got a job in Boston as a social worker. This allowed her to save up and purchase her first plane - a yellow vessel she dubbed Canary. From the onset, she showed her penchant for record-setting and rule-breaking - in 1922 she set the women's altitude record by rising up to 14,000 feet. According to Biography.com, she became the 16th woman to get her pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique.

However, Earhart did experience her fair share of setbacks, such as financial troubles, which caused her to sell her plane at one point. Despite this, she pressed on, and in 1927 she became part of the American Aeronautical Society, Biography.com notes.

Earhart became the first woman to make a trek across the Atlantic on June 17, 1928, when she accompanied a pilot and co-pilot when they flew from Newfoundland to Wales. She received a great deal of publicity and the trio even got to meet President Calvin Coolidge.

Earhart later formed a partnership and marriage with George Putnam, who worked with her on her newest venture - becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic alone. On May 20, 1932, Earhart attempted to go from Newfoundland to Paris. AmeliaEarhart.com reports that icy conditions forced her to land in Ireland, but her accomplishment granted her even more publicity and acceptance. Upon her return, President Herbert Hoover gave her a medal on behalf of the National Geographic Society.

Earhart continued to push the envelope with airborne feats that proved her mettle and aeronautical prowess. She set an altitude record for autogyro planes and was the first person to fly across the Pacific, from Hawaii to California.

In 1937, Earhart once again raised the bar as she attempted to circumnavigate the globe. She was almost 40 years old when she first tried, but mechanical troubles caused her to abandon the effort and rebuild her plane. She set off again shortly afterward and landed intermittently in various locations such as New Guinea and Howland Island.

Earhart continued her journey, flying through cloudy and rainy weather. She was supposed to maintain radio contact with the U.S. Coast Guard Ship Itasca, but there was frequent static and she lost contact.

An extensive recovery rescue mission that cost 4 million dollars was conducted to find Earhart. However, the search was called off eventually and she was never found. Today, there are various theories about what could have happened to her. But her name lives on through scholarships, literature and other standing memorials.