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Amelia Earhart: Pilot and feminist (+video)

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Earhart earned enough money for flying lessons and paid for her first plane, a yellow two-seat biplane she named “Canary.” She set her first record in Canary, becoming the first woman to rise to an altitude of 14,000 feet.

Earhart joined the ranks of endurance pilots like Charles Lindbergh, breaking aviation records throughout the 20s and 30s. In 1932 she became the first woman, and only the second person after Lindbergh, to fly solo across the Atlantic.

The solo flight across the Atlantic proved, she said, that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower.” Earhart not only seemed determined to make it known that women were as capable as men, but to challenge other women to push themselves, and the boundaries of what they could accomplish.

“Now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done — occasionally what men have not done — thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action,” she said.

But earning the respect of male pilots and the admiration of a nation wasn’t her only goal; Earhart sought equality in every aspect of her life. In 1931 when she married her publicist and friend, George Putnam, she called the union a “partnership,” with “dual control.”

Earhart used her notoriety to rally support for other female pilots who faced gender discrimination. When Helen Richey, the first female commercial airline pilot, quit her job at Central Air Lines  in 1935 after just 10 months because the airline suggested she wouldn't be physically strong enough to fly in bad weather, Earhart organized a protest in Washington DC.

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