On This Day in History: May 21
There is a certain cachet to having your Wikipedia bio list you as “disappeared” rather than proclaim you dead. Although, Amelia Earhart was born in 1897, so it’s certain she’s not still doing the Gilligan’s Island thing somewhere in the Pacific.
--On This Day in History, Shit Went Down: May 21, 1932--
Today is the anniversary of when a dude with fucked-up ideas about racial purity who also cheated on his wife a whole bunch first flew the Atlantic solo. Five years to the day later a much cooler person did it. Let’s focus on her.
Amelia didn’t like being told what she couldn’t do because of her gender. As a child, she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings of women doing jobs traditionally reserved for men, such as law, mechanics, and film directing. In 1920, her father took her to an airshow and three days later she was taken for her first flight. She was hooked. A week later Amelia began flying lessons.
Although intelligent and enthusiastic, Earhart was reportedly not a natural pilot and struggled to learn the skill. But she was determined to persevere. She set a women’s altitude record of 14,000 feet in 1922, and by 1925 was gaining notoriety as a female flyer. The year after Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, George Putnam (who’d published a popular book about said flight) approached Earhart to be the first woman to accompany a transatlantic flight.
There were other female pilots, but George preferred Amelia because she was educated and attractive and therefore “the right sort of girl” [insert barf noises]. Although essentially a passenger on a flight made by men, it made her a celebrity. Some newspapers nicknamed her “Lady Lindy,” comparing her to Lindbergh. Others more respectfully called her “Queen of the Air.”
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Years of flying, breaking more records, and speaking on the subject of women in flight would follow. During that time, after his sixth proposal, she agreed to marry Putnam. She told him they’d have an open marriage, and she wouldn’t be taking his last name.
No one had made a solo transatlantic flight since Lindbergh in 1927. Earhart intended to follow the same route from New York to Paris on May 21, 1932, but harsh weather forced her to land in Northern Ireland. A farmhand asked her, “Have you flown far?” She replied, “From America.”
The flight saw her fame grow exponentially, but she would not rest. After numerous other flying accomplishments, Amelia Earhart disappeared on July 2, 1937, while attempting to be the first aviator to complete an equatorial circumnavigation of Earth.
Get the book On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down.