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Friday, August 14, 2009

Amelia Earhart [Feminist Flashback Friday]

Feminist Flashback Friday is a feature that focuses on a feminist piece of history every Friday. This "piece of history" can be a person, event, character, movie, tv show, etc. The goal of Feminist Flashback Friday is to help connect the past (whether in historical events or entertainment or what have you) with the present and on to the future.

Amelia Earhart (July 24, 1897 - missing July 2, 1937, declared dead January 5, 1939)

Amelia Earhart: aviatrix, writer...feminist icon?

Everyone knows about Amelia Earhart's attempt to circumnavigate the wold and her disappearance. Not as well known (despite the numerous biographies) is the feminist role model side of Earhart...other than just being the first women to do stuff (I don't mean to sound flippant here, this is really important and I will get into it later).

Amelia's mother raised her and her sister to not be "nice little girls." They played outside and wore bloomers unlike the other girls in their area. She was the adventurous type who would much rather be outside. Her first experience with flying was when she secured a ramp to the top of the family toolshed, went off it in a sled, and came out of it with a "sensation of exhiliration."

When she first started flying, she had to work to save the $1000 for flying lessons. At first, seasoned pilots critiqued her flying skills, but she was determined. She continued training and honing her skills as a pilot. She gradually gained the respect of fellow pilots after years of proving herself. She eventually became the first president of The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots.

Did you know that Amelia Earhart was also a writer? She wrote numerous books about her flying experiences. She was also an associate editor at Cosmopolitan magazine (isn't that weird, in a good way?). She used this platform to campaign for greater public acceptance of aviation, especially for women entering the field.

She was the frist woman to go on a solo flight across North America and back in August 1928. She was the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in May 1932. At this point she was gaining national fame. She used her notority as a platform for increasing the awareness of women in aviation.

She did eventually marry a man named George P. Putnam. She described her marriage as a "partnership" with a "dual control." She demanded respect from her husband.

In 1937, she was the first to attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Sadly, her plane disappeared towards the beginning of the journey around Howland Island.

Amelia Earhart was an advocate for women's issues, especially surrounding women in aviation. She was the first woman to solo fly acorss the Atlantic, the first woman to recieve the Distinguished Flying Cross, the first president of The Ninety-Nines, the first to attempt to circumnavigate the globe. She was a powerful woman who wasn't afraid to reach for her dreams and didn't back down.

Even today (as of 2006), only 6% of civilian pilots were women (Wikipedia). Aviation is still a field that is hard for women to break in to. But it's great that there is this role model, not only in the field of aviation, but for all women reaching for their dreams. Sadly, I don't think Amelia Earhart would be as remembered and well-known (despite her numerous achievements) today if she had not disappeared, never to be seen again. But just because her fame comes from these unfortunate circumstanes does not mean that she can't be a feminist icon.

I honestly did not know a whole lot about the life of Amelia Earhard before I started doing research or this post (most of which was done on Wikipedia). I knew she was a feminist icon, but now I want to do even more research and read some biographies of her. There is even a biopic coming out soon about the life of Amelia Earhart (starring Hillary Swank, who is amazing). Here is a trailer for it, it looks really good:


JessMess said...

I did a report on her as a kid and ever since then I've had a mild obsession with anything Earhart! Recently some evidence has surfaced that gives more insight into her disappearance. It's really spooky stuff to me because I can imagine being stranded on an island where no ones knows your whereabouts and dying of starvation/thirst there.
I definitely think she's a great woman's icon and love reading about her strong spirit.

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