Amelia – less than her reputation, more than could reasonably be expected

091019nipearhart--125597240433427200This and pics below courtesy of First Post and Wikipedia

What a fascinating study Amelia Earhart is, just as Jessica Watson is now. What a background, what a tale of overcoming deficiencies and obstacles and actually achieving something worthwhile.

From tearaway child and ringleader of the gang to her home problems to her chronic sinusitis, something I suffer from, the odds were not good that she’d achieve her later flying accolades.  In her early flying, under the tutelage of Neta Snook, she was concerned, as newbies are, with image and the spectacular aspects of flying but she was determined as well.



Amelia was an intelligent and competent pilot but hardly a brilliant aviator, whose early efforts were characterized as inadequate by more seasoned flyers.   One serious miscalculation occurred during a record attempt that had ended with her spinning down through a cloud bank, only to emerge at 3,000 ft (910 m).

Experienced pilots admonished her, “Suppose the clouds had closed in until they touched the ground?” Earhart was chagrined yet acknowledged her limitations as a pilot and continued to seek out assistance throughout her career from various instructors.


She got her break as passenger on a transatlantic flight:

Since most of the flight was on “instruments” and Amelia had no training for this type of flying, she did not pilot the aircraft. When interviewed after landing, she said, “Stultz did all the flying—had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” She added, “…maybe someday I’ll try it alone.”

… and her commendable humility and honesty contrasted with this obsession in her mind about striking a blow for women.  Why can’t women strike a blow for themselves and not necessarily for their gender the whole time?  Jessica Watson is currently striking a blow for her age, so perhaps things are progressing.


Now she was famous, endorsed, marketed, sent on lecture tours and all the rest of it, even rubbing shoulders with President Coolidge.  These were the days of liberation, of flappers, a time for heroes and daredevils to step up to the plate.

The fame brought in much needed cash and she made a cross-America flight which garnered praise from experienced fliers:

Gradually her piloting skills and professionalism grew, as acknowledged by experienced professional pilots who flew with her. General Leigh Wade flew with Earhart in 1929: “She was a born flier, with a delicate touch on the stick.”


The Ruth Nichols incident sealed her reputation.  A fellow flier’s plane flipped at takeoff and instead of taking off herself, she ran over to drag the other pilot out and this cost her a higher place in the race but did wonders for an already established reputation.

One wonders if she would have done the same had it been a male pilot to be rescued.  Probably.  Either way, she even brought the feminism thing into her marriage, poor man but she had a point in one way – there was still much prejudice against women flier.  Whilst the hypocritical press heaped praise on her, women pilots were being banned from races on the grounds that they were women.


Thus came the May 20, 1932 flight and her place in the annals of history.

She received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover.

July 2nd/3rd was the tragedy of her disappearance and the subsequent declaration of her death after the most expensive search and rescue operation to that date in the United States.  It’s not the intention of this post to go into the many theories.

Neta_amelia_kinner_airster_sWith Neta


She was was a human being who transcended obstacles, used her connections and growing fame, as she should have done and she represents what humans can achieve with a lot of determination, pluck, support and a few lucky breaks.

Does she deserve a place in the human Hall of Fame? Undoubtedly. Was she quite as good an aviator as the press and her subsequent reputation made out? No – she was pretty good by the end but still prone to error, as any human is.

Was she a national hero? Yes, of course.

Is the world better for what she did? I believe so. Without such people, the human race does not progress, does not move forward.  Did she die in the quest for celebrity?  Yes – who wouldn’t?  Did she die in the quest for feminism?  Yes – Eleanor Roosevelt would have stuffed her head full of such maggots and her hobnobbing with the vipers of the day would certainly not have done her focus any good.


Her reputation as a feminist icon should be set aside immediately.  Most of her flying was with males and females and even her solo flight was not a complete solo – she had a support team, in particular Norwegian/American aviator Bernt Balchen, just as Jessica Watson has a support team now, male and female.

This mania to present her as “women can do anything as well as men and often better” needs to be laid to rest. Women are human – of course the best ones can do great things, just as the best males can.

As said at the beginning of this post, why can’t women just achieve something for the sake of the achievement or for their own reputation?  Why must anything a male achieves be judged against other criteria but anything a woman does always be judged against gender and seen as “one up over the males”?

Let’s remember her as Amelia Earhart – pioneer flier and one of the doers of the world.

All power to Jessica Watson, may G-d go with her and the Old Man of the Sea and the albatrosses and the dolphinsLatest report hereGlad she has the hard dodger in place above her.


3 comments for “Amelia – less than her reputation, more than could reasonably be expected

  1. October 23, 2009 at 14:44

    Reality always pops the bubble of myth.

    She was one of the old style feminists. One that went out and proved she could compete with men where she wanted to. Not anything like a modern day feminist who whinges and whines about how women are treated badly by men and what chains men should wear to compensate.

  2. QM
    October 23, 2009 at 18:25

    That’s the problem with modern day equality, women and men feel they have to compete against each other rather than compliment each others achievements. Men and women aren’t equal, they probably never will be, all they are, are different and from a strictly male perspective I’m of the opinion that women are delightfully different.

  3. October 23, 2009 at 20:45

    I never did understand men and women trying to compete to prove they are better than each other either. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.

    But sometimes women do have to prove they can do something. For example when they are working in a male dominated world they can tend to get overlooked or dismissed. Trust me I know 😉

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