How about this one? Still no? Okay, okay. How about… now. Yup, that’s Amelia Earhart enjoying a ticker-tape parade in her honor. She’s often thought of as the first or the Her accomplishments are widely known. Among them being the first woman — and second person ever — to solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.
Did you know that Amelia Earhart was a daring and ambitious pilot, but so were her peers. Like Louise Thaden, still the only pilot ever to hold the women’s speed, altitude, and solo-endurance records simultaneously. In 1929, she won the Women’s Air Derby, the first women’s transcontinental air race.
Her friend and rival Amelia Earhart placed third, after wrecking early on in the race. Or consider Ruth Nichols, who held three simultaneous flying records in 1931. That year, she flew higher, faster, and farther than any woman in the world. Amelia’s contemporaries were some of the best pilots at the time, but they faded into obscurity.
Amelia Earhart a Legend in Her Lifetime
While Amelia, a pretty average pilot in comparison, became a legend in her lifetime. So what set her apart from the other record-setting female pilots, some of whom were measurably better at flying? It was all planned that way.
How Amelia Earhart Became Famous
The year was 1927. American aviator Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean, and people went wild. Aviation was becoming an American obsession, and Lindbergh was an instant hero. He was even Time magazine’s first-ever Man of the Year. And that was an opportunity for George Palmer Putnam, an influential American publisher, to cash in on the aviation craze.
He persuaded Lindbergh to write a book about his historic flight. “We” was a massive success, and Lindbergh’s three-month promotional tour made him one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. Soon after, wealthy socialite Amy Phipps Guest acquired a powerful trimotor airplane so she could become the first woman flown over the Atlantic Ocean.
But her family refused to allow something so dangerous, so she decided to sponsor a young aviatrix to go instead. She asked G.P. Putnam to find her the “right sort of girl” to make the historic flight. Putnam settled on a 30-year-old social worker and enthusiastic amateur pilot named, you guessed it, Amelia Earhart. With her short hair and boyish good looks, she struck a strong resemblance to American icon Charles Lindbergh.
An Opportunity in the Golden Age of Aviation
Putnam saw an opportunity for another bestseller. For Amelia it was an opportunity to realize her dream: a career in aviation. She didn’t actually touch any of the controls during the flight. She rode as a passenger and became the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air in 1928. Pilot is none other than America’s Miss Amelia Earhart, world’s leading lady flier. It catapulted her from relative obscurity into international headlines.
And that was all orchestrated by George Putnam, who was already working with a lot of male aviators on record setting flights and publicity. So he was a master of that. Putnam soon had Amelia working on a book about her flight. He organized a publicity tour and fed her new nickname to the press. Lady Lindy.
She flew, she lectured, and also wrote an aviation column in Cosmopolitan magazine, which she used as a platform to promote aviation and to encourage other women to enter the field. She even endorsed products like Lucky Strike cigarettes and a line of designer luggage to finance her flying career. In 1931 Amelia reluctantly married George Putnam, and together they worked to further her career through publicized record-breaking. Record-setting, making headlines was the way people were making a living in aviation.
And that’s what Amelia did. She often said, “I set a record and then I lecture on it.” She wanted to fly, and she did what she needed to do to make it happen. See, at the time, there was no such thing as commercial aviation or professional flying. After World War I, surplus planes could be bought cheap, and they were mostly used for mail-carrying, smuggling, and something called barnstorming, a shockingly reckless practice of public air stunts.
Heralding the First Air Shows of Our Time
Courtesy of Amelia Earhart barnstormers traveled from town to town, taking people up for rides and pulling off manoeuvres that terrified and delighted crowds and newspapers. It was a dangerous aviation practice, but it was the only way to make money as a pilot and gain flying experience in the early ’20s.
It actually helped launch the careers of some of America’s greatest aviators, including Bessie Coleman and Charles Lindbergh. As barnstorming eventually fell by the wayside, record-setting and exploration became the media’s fixation with flying.
And that’s exactly what Amelia and her contemporaries set out to do in order to support their careers. That era is known as the “Golden Age of Flight,” so all this record-setting was exciting everyone, and getting people to be familiar with aviation, consider it as a form of transportation, and invest in it.
Early Pilots Owe Amelia Earhart a Debt of Gratitude
So these early female pilots from the 1920’s and onward served a real useful aviation purpose to make it familiar and get people excited about it. Of course Amelia Earhart Putnam lands at Newark, after her epochal 2,500-mile hop from Los Angeles, breaking Ruth Nichols’s distance record and setting a new time mark for women.
It took me about 19 hours and a few minutes to make the trip. I wish I could have done it faster. Amelia was very comfortable with the press.
Amelia Earhart Learned to Embrace Fame
She learned very early how to talk to them. When she was flying she looked very much like a man, but when she was on camera, she came across as much more soft-spoken. So in that way she didn’t threaten her audiences, even though she was doing this extraordinary thing, making a career in aviation.
But Amelia wasn’t satisfied with being a passenger in the historic flight that made her famous. She referred to her role in it as a “sack of potatoes” and wanted to change that. So she decided to become the second person ever to solo the Atlantic Ocean. Putnam began making the arrangements, and on the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s daring flight, Amelia took off in her red Lockheed Vega, eventually touching down in Northern Ireland.
Here you see Lady Lindy, whose triumphant solo flight across the Atlantic is the admiration of the whole world. What a wonderful woman — and isn’t she like Lindbergh! She had made this really courageous flight — people were still routinely getting killed flying across the Atlantic Ocean, so the fact that she did that on her own really gave her credibility.
The reaction was crazy, but it had been crazy for Charles Lindbergh too. Amelia went from amateur pilot to national treasure in just four years. Her publicity campaigns not only crafted her image as the premier female pilot, they also allowed her to keep flying.
Wrapping Up : The Real Secret Reason That Amelia Earhart is so Famous
And while she might not have been the most skilled pilot of her time, 80 years since her disappearance she’s still the most enduring. Miss Earhart was acclaimed for her competitive daring, but also admired for her grace and charm. She was to hold the headlines for almost 10 years.
Here at the height of her fame she arrives at New York City Hall, America’s top woman pilot. A woman who asked no quarter in competing in the world of men..
As found on Youtube