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Amelia Earhart—A Pioneer for Women Everywhere

Written by a Shipmate on February 28, 2023

In her short life and even shorter career, Amelia Earhart managed to open doors not just for women in aviation but for women and girls everywhere.

A record-setting pioneer, Earhart was able to ignore the naysayers and claim her spot as one of the most decorated pilots of her time. While the mystery surrounding her disappearance remains a fascinating part of her story, it is her outstanding career for which she ought to be remembered.

Fearless, unapologetic women like Earhart continue to motivate women like me to pursue our goals with fervor and passion. Women’s History Month is the perfect time to be re-inspired by those who have created ways for us to pursue new paths and (sometimes scary) adventures.

Amelia Earhart

"Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?"

Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas in 1897. In her youth, she participated in traditionally boyish activities like basketball and auto repair. She would even attend a semester at university, rare for women at the time. It was clear that defying gender roles came naturally to Amelia, and the thought of stepping out of line never held her back. Disrupting the status quo was one of her biggest motivations.

While working as a Red Cross nurse’s aide in Toronto during World War I, Earhart became enamored with watching the Royal Flying Corps train at a local airfield. After the war ended, in the wake of a brief stint as a pre-med student at Columbia, Earhart took her first airplane ride in 1920. She began flying lessons the very next year.

Already focused on women’s role in aviation, Earhart chose to learn under female flight instructor Neta Snook–paying for lessons by working as a filing clerk at the Los Angeles Telephone Company. Eventually, she was able to buy her first plane, a second-hand yellow Kinner Airster she nicknamed the Canary. At the time, Earhart was twenty-four years old.

In 1921, Earhart passed her flight and participated in her first flight exhibition two days later.

"The most effective way to do it is to do it."

Only one year into her career, Amelia Earhart broke her first record; in 1922, she became the first woman to fly solo above 14,000 feet.

From there, the accomplishments kept pouring in:

  • In 1932, she became the first woman (and second person after Charles Lindbergh) to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Upon her return, Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross—a military decoration awarded for “heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.” She was the first woman to receive the honor.
  • In 1932, she completed the first solo, nonstop flight across the United States by a woman.
  • In 1935, she became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the United States mainland.
  • In 1929, after placing third in the All-Women’s Air Derby (the first transcontinental air race for women) she helped form the Ninety-Nines, an international organization for the advancement of female pilots.
  • Earhart became the first president of the organization of licensed pilots, which still exists today and represents women flyers from 44 countries.

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity."

When Amelia Earhart began her flying career, she was mindful of her role as a pioneer for women everywhere, not just those in aviation. Beyond breaking records in the sky, she spent time empowering women young and old to be assertive and claim their place in the workforce through her writings and lectures.

Though she didn’t explicitly identify as a feminist (though she probably would now), Earhart was a passionate, dynamic advocate for gender equality. She worked as a Counselor in Careers for Women at Purdue University, where she equipped young women with the tenacity to fight for opportunities in the real world.

Amelia Earhart both led by example and through explicit advocacy. From her support of the Equal Rights Amendment to her androgynous fashion sense, she remains a role model for people of all ages, and of all genders.

Shortly after her disappearance, the National Women’s Party wrote in Equal Rights, “There will never be a ‘Last Flight’ for Amelia Earhart as long as her work is carried on the wings of penned words to those who believe in freedom for women as well as men.”

Amelia Earhart’s spirit embodies the resolve women need to claim their space in male-dominated fields. Her message and passion remain timeless and serve as a powerful reminder of what is possible.

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At She Has Infinite Potential (S.H.I.P.), we know that professional women are facing obstacles unique in their work environments that can create difficulties when it comes to mentorship, sponsorship, allyship, and support.

That’s why we’ve created a panel full of experts who know how to help both individuals and organizations work through these hurdles based on the results of cutting edge research. It is our honor to help those in your organization or at your event understand what tools they have that will assist them in gaining and keeping momentum moving forward.

Whether you want to drive retention or create better paths for mentorship and sponsorship, we can help your organization empower under-recognized individuals and gain all of the creative and relational benefits that come from having more women in the tech industry.

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