Amelia’s flying accomplishments proved influential to American pilots and pilots of the world alike. She was a creative impulse within the Ninety-Nines organization, and a stimulus for womankind to replace outdated social norms. She encouraged women to hold fast to their beliefs, follow their hearts, and always dare to dream.
“The more women fly, the more who become pilots, the quicker we will be recognized as an important factor in aviation,” said Amelia. Her parting words to Louise Thaden, a fellow Ninety-Nine were, “If I should bop off, it’ll be doing the thing that I’ve always most wanted to do.”
By becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane, Amelia gained immediate fame. She is still remembered as the outstanding female pilot of her time. She did not, however, seek to set herself apart from other female pilots. Several female pilots, including the French Baroness Raymonde de Laroche, Bessica Raiche, Blanche Stuart Scott, Harriet Quimby, Laura Bromwell, Katherine Stinson, and Bessie Coleman helped pave the way for female aviators.
Encourager of Women
As the aviation editor of Cosmopolitan she wrote about how she’d been introduced to flying, how much she enjoyed it, and the planes she had owned. She encouraged other women to learn to fly and urged mothers to allow their daughters to take lessons.
Popular belief of the 1920s and 1930s held that flying was not a ladylike activity and that women who took part in it must be somehow abnormal. Amelia tried to combat such stereotypes by stressing the variety of women involved in aviation.
In her autobiography, The Fun of It , Amelia described female pilots: “Of course, they are as different as individuals from any other group. There are slim ones and plump ones and quiet ones and those who talk all the time. They’re large and small, young and old, about half the list are married and many of these have children. In a word, they are simply thoroughly normal girls and women who happen to have taken up flying rather than golf, swimming, or steeplechasing.”
Throughout her life Amelia believed women needed to step forward together and open doors for one another. In The Fun of It , she described the careers of other notable female aviators, especially Ruth Nichols and Elinor Smith, and listed the current international women’s records for land planes, light airplanes, and seaplanes. Amelia Earhart lived in a time in which women’s opportunities were more limited than they are today. Women flyers often flew smaller, less-expensive planes than men. They had fewer opportunities to train, especially since many male pilots, although no female pilots, learned to fly in the armed services. Earhart believed strongly that separate records should be kept for men and women, so that women’s achievements, even if not as great as men’s, would still be noted.
Earhart spent much of her career speaking and writing to promote women’s opportunities in aviation and other fields. She hoped that one day men and women would be valued for their individual abilities. “It has always seemed to me,” she wrote “that boys and girls are educated very differently … too often little attention is paid to individual talent. Instead, education goes on dividing people according to their sex, and putting them in little feminine or masculine pigeonholes.”
Her hope for the future progress of aviation was not that she would be well-known or remembered, but “that women will share in these endeavors, even more than they have in the past, is [Amelia’s] wish — and prophecy.”
Her accomplishments in less than 40 years, from July 24, 1897 to July 2, 1937, earned Amelia the prestige of being the most famous female aviator in the world — an accomplishment that stands today.