Amelia Earhart is one of the most famous American pilots. A record setting aviator, she was the second person to fly solo and nonstop across the Atlantic, the first person to fly solo and nonstop across the United States, and much more. She tragically went missing while attempting to fly around the world.
Earhart’s life, while tragically cut short, was many layered. In addition to the feats accomplished while in a plane, Earhart made an impact in areas from ranging from fashion to flying an autogiro. Here are five things you may not know about the famous American pilot.
1. She Also Flew the Autogiro
In 1930, after only 15 minutes of instruction, Earhart became the first woman to fly an autogiro, made by Pitcairn and featuring rotating blades to increase lift and allow short takeoffs and landings. Earhart set the first autogiro altitude record and made two autogiro cross-country tours, which were marked by three public crashes. Though Earhart was the most famous woman pilot, she was not necessarily the most skilled.
2. First Woman Vice President of the National Aeronautic Association
Earhart became the first woman vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, which authorized official records and races. She persuaded the organization to establish separate female records because women did not have the money or planes — and thus the experience — to fairly compete against men for "world" titles.
3. Politically Outspoken
Earhart lobbied Congress for aviation legislation. She also lobbied for birth control rights, supported women in politics and business, and endorsed the draft for men, women, and even the elderly to promote equality and peace.
4. Entrepreneur and Fashion Designer
Earhart designed a line of "functional" women's clothing, including dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats, initially using her own sewing machine, dress form, and seamstress. She modeled her own designs for promotional spreads.
Earhart also designed a line of lightweight, canvas-covered plywood luggage sold by Orenstein Trunk of Newark, New Jersey. Earhart luggage was sold into the 1990s.
5. College Professor
In 1935, Earhart became a visiting professor at Purdue University at the invitation of Purdue president Edward Elliott, an advocate of higher education for women, especially in engineering and science. Earhart, a former premedical student, served as a counselor for women and a lecturer in aeronautics. Elliott was also interested in supporting Earhart's flying career and convinced Purdue benefactors to purchase a twin-engine Lockheed 10-E Electra for her.
This content was migrated from an earlier online exhibit, Women in Aviation and Space History, which shared the stories of the women featured in the Museum in the early 2000s.