She was a vigorous tomboy in her Kansas girlhood. Yet unlike generation after generation of American women, Amelia Earhart did not have to give up action and daring in adulthood. She worked as a volunteer in a Red Cross Hospital during World War I, studied briefly as a premed student, and taught English to immigrant factory workers. But her first love was the airplane, then captivating the public imagination. Surrounded by the excitement of stunt fliers and air shows, she made her first solo flight in 1921 and scraped together the money to buy her own plane.
In 1928, when Amelia Earhart was working in a settlement house in Boston, she was approached by the organizers of a transatlantic flight. The woman originally scheduled to be part of the team could not go, so would Amelia take her place? “How could I refuse such a shining adventure!” As the first woman to fly the Atlantic, she won the public’s affection. The press dubbed her “Lady Lindy,” a female Charles Lindbergh.
She became aviation editor of Cosmopolitan, was active in Zonta International, and helped establish an organization of women pilots. In 1931 she married George Palmer Putnam, of the publishing family, and his promotional skills kept her name in the press.
After achieving a number of flight “firsts,” she determined to do “just one more long flight,” In 1937 she took off from Miami heading east on an around-the-world course. Her Lockheed Electra was specially equipped, and she was accompanied by a navigator, Fred Noonan. On July 2 they took off for the most difficult leg of the trip, from New Guinea to tiny Howland Island is the mid-Pacific. They never arrived, and an extensive air and sea search failed to turn up any trace of them.