She accurately foresees: “As far as woman's opportunities in flying go, I think they will improve…”.
Click here to learn about a rare letter of Orville Wright on aviation
Amelia Earhart took her first flight in California in December 1920, and declared, "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly." To pay for flight lessons, Earhart worked as a telephone company clerk....
Amelia Earhart took her first flight in California in December 1920, and declared, "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly." To pay for flight lessons, Earhart worked as a telephone company clerk. She soloed in 1921, bought her first airplane in 1922, and wasted no time in setting a women's altitude record of 14,000 feet. In 1923, she became the 16th woman to receive an international pilot license. In the spring of 1928, she joined the local National Aeronautic Association, and was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger. The dramatic and successful 1928 flight brought her international attention and the opportunity to earn a living in aviation. She began lecturing and writing on aviation around the country. In August 1929, she placed third in the All-Women's Air Derby, which was the first transcontinental air race for women. This race, closely followed by the press and by the public who flocked to the stops along the way, proved that women could fly in rugged and competitive conditions. A few months after the Derby, a group of women pilots, keenly aware of the lack of social and economic independence for women and determined to help one another, formed an organization for social, recruitment, and business purposes. Ninety-nine women out of 285 licensed U.S. female pilots became charter members, inspiring the organization's name The Ninety-Nines (99s); Earhart became their first president.
Determined to prove herself in what was still essentially a male preserve, Earhart decided to fly the Atlantic Ocean again, but this time alone. She thought a transatlantic flight would bring her respect, as no one but Charles A. Lindbergh had accomplished this feat. On May 20-21, 1932, she achieved this goal. Acclaimed in London, Paris, and Rome, she returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York City and honors in Washington, D.C. She was now the most famous woman in the world and considered a hero. She was particularly inspirational to girls, as her bravery and pioneering exploits paved the way for women to follow in her path, not merely in aviation, but in other male-dominated fields and endeavors. Her attitude on this was summed up in the following quote: "Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."
June Pierson of Detroit was 13 years old when she wrote the world’s most famous woman disclosing her ambition to get into aviation and asking her advice. Earhart may have been busy, but was not too busy to respond personally.
Typed letter signed, Rye, New York, August 14, 1933, to Pierson, encouraging her, stating her belief that the role of women in aviation would increase, and advising her to break into the field as she had – by working at clerical jobs to get her foot in the door. “It is very hard for me to advise you about taking up aviation as a vocation inasmuch as I do not know you. However, if you are really determined to fly, and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary, I should certainly not discourage you from the attempt. Of course the first step to becoming a pilot is to have a physical examination buy a Department of Commerce physician. You can find the name of the examiner in your district by writing to the Department of Commerce in Washington, Aeronautics Branch, or calling the local airport. He can tell you whether or not you are physically able to fly. If you can, the second step is to find means of taking lessons; and if you cannot I assume you will still wish to enter some other part of the industry. There are many positions in aviation open to women, not only in the clerical field but in the factories. There are air hostesses and a number of specialized jobs. Perhaps one of the best ways of getting in is to perfect yourself in secretarial work and obtain a position on the “fringes”, relying on your ability and desire in order to succeed. As far as woman's opportunities in flying go, I think they will improve as they have in all industries. Just now there are no pilots on the regular scheduled airlines. Someday I expect there will be. However, women do earn their living by teaching, by “joy hopping”, by ferry airplanes from factory to purchaser, etc. I think you are fortunate to have the full cooperation of your parents. If there are any questions you would like to ask me, I shall be glad to attempt to answer them.”
In this extraordinary letter Earhart thus draws on her own experience starting out, suggests Pierson rely, as she had, “on your ability and desire in order to succeed”, affirmatively states that opportunities for women would improve, and correctly predicts that a woman would soon become a commercial airline pilot (which happened in 1934 when Helen Richey was hired as the first female pilot for Central Airlines, which eventually became part of United Airlines). A search of public sale records going back forty years shows no other letter to a girl on aviation having reached the market in all that time.
In 1935, Earhart flew solo from Hawaii to California. She disappeared in 1937 making a flight around the world, and between her deeds and mysterious death, she has become a legend.
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