Amelia Earhart, Honorary Hoosier

1Hoosier By Choice…

By Mary Giorgio

When Amelia Earhart made her famed flight across the Atlantic Ocean, she was hailed as a national hero. In her short career, Earhart piloted several historic flights and achieved many firsts for women. It is less commonly known that she spent several years teaching aviation at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

2From Social Worker to Aviator 

Amelia Earhart was born in Atchison, Kansas on July 24, 1897. During World War I, she worked as a nurse’s aide in a Canadian military hospital. Earhart later attended college, and began a career in social work.

Around the age of 20, Earhart became interested in aviation after seeing a stunt-flying expedition. Soon after, she got her first airplane ride, later commenting, “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly.”

3Flying and Fame

In 1921, Earhart began taking flying lessons from instructor Nets Snook. She started saving up for her own airplane, and soon purchased a bright yellow plane. She named it “The Canary.”

In 1928, Earhart achieved fame when she joined an expedition as a passenger on the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean. After marrying George Putnam in 1931, the couple began secretly planning for another flight across the Atlantic, this time with Earhart as the pilot. Earhart set off in 1932, becoming the first woman to make the solo flight.

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Purdue Takes Notice

Other historic flights soon followed, and Earhart became the first person to make a solo flight from Hawaii to California, and from Mexico City to New Jersey.

Earhart’s newfound fame attracted the attention of Purdue University President Edward C. Elliot. In 1935, he asked her to join the faculty of Purdue. She was given dual appointments as a consultant in the Department of the Study of Careers for Women and as a technical advisor in the Department of Aeronautics.

6Around the World

Earhart and her husband adopted West Lafayette as their new hometown. She lectured on topics related to aerial navigation as well as practical applications to university education. It was while working at Purdue that Earhart decided to fly her plane across the world. She raised funds for the fateful flight through the Purdue Research Foundation.

By 1937, sufficient funds had been raised to make the attempt. Along with her navigator, Fred Noonan, Earhart departed from Miami on June 1, 1937. She was on her way to the Howland Islands in the Pacific Ocean when her plane disappeared on July 2, 1937.

7…And Then She Was Gone

Rescue efforts began immediately, and the US government spent over $4 million trying to find Earhart. It was the most extensive air and sea search ever conducted, but in the end, no trace was ever found of Earhart or her plane. She was declared lost at sea on July 19, 1937.

By the time Earhart took her last flight, she had become famous worldwide. Known for her courage and adventurous spirit, Earhart was a trailblazer in aviation and an inspiration to future generations.