Thursday 24 July 2014

Born this day ... Amelia Earhart

"One of my favorite phobias is that girls, especially those whose tastes aren't routine, often don't get a fair break... It has come down through the generations, an inheritance of age-old customs, which produced the corollary that women are bred to timidity."
Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart, "Queen of the Air", born on 24 July 1897, was the first female aviatrix to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, the first woman to fly an autogyro, the first woman to fly nonstop coast-to-coast across the U.S., the first person to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico, from Hawai to California, from ... Amelia Earhart was a pioneer who set a great many records (via).

"Women must pay for everything. They do get more glory than men for comparable feats, but, they also get more notoriety when they crash."
Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was an advocate for female pilots. She was the first president of The Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots (99s) which was founded for the mutual support and advancement of women pilots, an official of the National Aeronautic Association where she promoted the introduction of separate women's record, and a visiting faculty member of Purdue University where she councelled women on careers. When the aeronautical Bendix Trophy Race banned women in 1934, she refused to fly the actress, co-founder of the United Artists studio and at the time "most famous woman in the world" Mary Pickford (1892-1979) to open the races. Her ideals on marriage were rather liberal; she believed in equal responsibilities for both partners and kept her own name (via and via).

Amelia Earhart encouraged women to become passengers or pilots, told mothers not to say "no" to their daughters: "My point is that aviation is being sold to boys much more effectively than it is to girls." One of her goals was to make female fliers, women like herself, more the norm: "I am lonesome for the companionship of women in aviation. . . . When I want to 'talk shop' in aviation at home there are only men to talk to. Bill, Slim and some other flying men I have met are wonderful, but once in a while one likes to talk about a common interest with a woman." (via).
(...) when she attempts to address "what this flight means," she begins with the observation that the mayor who greets her in Southhampton, the first woman sheriff in England, is addressed as "Mister Mayor," pointing to the modern woman as oxymoron. She then considers the flight's meaning for aviation, for women, and for herself, always the order in which she will consider the importance of any aeronautical achievement. (literally via)

Amelia Earhart was aware of the impact of gender on the public perception of aviation. She pointed out that if a woman did something ordinary such as becoming a passenger, it was safe and everybody could do it. If a woman did something extraordinary, such as flying the Atlantic, it would become news. And if a woman failed to do it and, for instance, crashed, her gender would make it bigger news and women in general might be prevented from flying. With her short hair, her trousers ("It is possible that the advance of trousers for women is the most significant fashion change of the twentieth century."), her advocating for women's rights to endanger their lives and not just improve the lives of others, she showed traits that are traditionally associated with the figure of the dandy (via). Amelia Earhart became a feminist icon.

"Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."
Amelia Earhart

The plan to circumnavigate the globe by flight did not work out. Amelia Earhart disappeared on 2 July 1937 together with her navigator Frederick Noonan and her customised Lockheed Electra (via) during their flight from Lae in New Guinea to the small atoll of Howland Isand in the Pacific. One of the largest naval air search operations followed (Beheim, 2004) to find "America's favorite missing person" (Hancock, 2009). A great many search operations followed.

", and then, women should do for themselves what men have already done—occasionally what men have not done—thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action. Some such consideration was a contributing reason for my wanting to do what I so much wanted to do."
Amelia Earhart

"The woman who can create her own job is the woman who will win fame and fortune." 

"I have known girls who should be tinkering with mechanical things instead of making dresses, and boys who would be better at cooking than engineering."
Amelia Earhart

"Being men and being engaged in a highly essential phase of the serious business of air transportation, they [airline mechanics] all naturally had preconceived notions about a woman pilot bent on a 'stunt' flight—not very favorable notions, either. It was, undoubtedly, something of a shock to discover that the 'gal,' with whom they had to deal, not only was an exceptionally pleasant human being who 'knew her stuff,' but that she knew exactly what she wanted done and had sense enough to let them alone while they did it. There was an almost audible clatter of chips falling off skeptical masculine shoulders."
C.B. Allen, New York Herald Tribune 

- Beheim, E. (2004) Searching for Amelia. Naval Aviation News, 22-25, via
- Hancock, P. A. (2009) HF/E Issues Involved in the Disappearance of and Search for Amelia Earhart. Ergonomics in Design, 19-23
- Mayrose, B. (n.y.) Amelia Earhart, Feminist. via
- photos via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via and via