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[I remember first reading about Amelia Earhart in grade school.
There was no mention of any connection between her and Indiana then,
but I was still very fascinated with her story and read more about her.
Little did I realize that I would continue to encounter her many times.
Later, when I went to Purdue, I was assigned to live in Earhart Hall,
where I then learned more about her connection to Purdue late in life.
Suitably, the residence hall was very close to the Purdue Airport,
and also is no coincidence due to Purdue's strength in Aeronautics.
Still later, while I was working for the Purdue Humanities Library,
I found out that the Special Collections featured many of her things
and they were right down the hall from where I worked for four years.
I have included more about that quoted from them in the text below.
Finally, I encountered her yet again while I was in graduate school,
I was assigned to work on the Purdue Creative Thinking Program,
that included her in the programs which I helped to re-edit in 1988
Passages from that audio program's script is also included below.
The concluding lines of both capture my own feelings very well.]

The Amelia Earhart Collection in Purdue Library Special Collection is the largest single repository of materials in the world relating to the life, career, and mysterious disappearance of famed aviator Amelia Earhart (1897 - 1937). The articles in this collection were donated to Purdue University by Amelia's husband, George Palmer Putnam, in recognition of her connection with Purdue as a consultant on women's career issues as well as Purdue's sponsorship of her final flight attempt.

The Earhart Collection contains numerous rare and unique items pertaining to her aviation career and personal life. These include hundreds of photos; aviation maps and flight plans; as well as correspondence from and to Amelia. There are also some flying related items including a circa 1935 flight suite, flying cap and goggles, leather jacket, and various pieces of survival gear.

Amelia Earhart had a brief but rewarding relationship with Purdue. She served as a women's career counselor during the 1935-36 school year at the invitation of President Edward C. Elliott who, at that time, was seeking to attract more women to the university. Amelia proved to be a talented and respected role model; her tireless efforts on behalf of Purdue's young women were much appreciated and reinforced the belief that women were as capable as men in succeeding at their chosen vocations.

Amelia Earhart proved this point time and time again in her own career as an aviator. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic (1928), the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic (1932), and the first pilot to fly solo across the Pacific (1935) Hawaii to California. In addition to her flying exploits, Amelia was a noted author and lecturer: two of her works, 20 Hrs., 40 min. (1928) and The Fun of It (1932), are included in the collection. Although she mysteriously disappeared during her 1937 round the world flight attempt, Amelia's Earhart's trailblazing accomplishments continue to serve as a challenge and inspiration for all Americans to this day. (Passage have been taken from Purdue University Special Collection's Amelia Earhart WWW Site.)

[The following is from the Purdue Creative Thinking Program #30, Amelia Earhart.]


Even as a little girl, Amelia Earhart was daring and adventuresome. She liked to play games and do exciting things that most people said only boys should do. One cold, snowy morning she went sledding with the kind of fast steel sled that only boys used in the early 1900s. The boys who were sledding laughed at her, saying she would fall off, but Amelia didn't pay attention to them. She took a running start and went flying down the hill. Suddenly a horse and cart appeared, moving slowly along the road at the bottom of the hill directly in Amelia's path. At the last minute, she pushed on the steering bar as hard as she could and shot safely between the horse's legs. The boys were no longer laughing; they were proud of Amelia's courage. That courage came I handy when she became interested in planes. After her first plane ride, she knew she wanted to be a pilot. She took flying lessons from one of the first women pilots and quickly became one of the best herself; she began setting records almost as soon as she could fly. She was invited to be the first woman, and only the second person, to fly across the Atlantic in a plane. She went as a passenger on that trip, but later became the first woman, and only the second person, to fly across the Atlantic alone. Amelia became quite famous; she wrote books about her travels and later went to Purdue University where her major job was to counsel girls on choosing careers. Purdue gave her a large plan filled with scientific equipment, and she made several flights to gather information. She also attempted a round-the-world flight; no one is sure what happened, but Amelia disappeared on that flight and was never heard from again. She is still remembered as the most famous of woman pilots and an example of what women can do if they only try.

Script Excerpts

It was a cold and snowy Saturday morning. The young girl carried her new sled to the top of the hill. She looked down at the bottom and then she examined her sled. It was a sleek, fast coaster with steel runners, the kind that boys used in the early 1900's.

The boys had already teased her. "Girls can't steer sleds! They go too fast. You'll fall off."

But the girl paid no attention. After she had grown up, the habit of not paying attention to men who teased struck with her. She would become a famous pilot, the first woman to fly the Atlantic. But now, the job was to sled to the bottom of the hill, without falling off or getting hurt and proving that the boys were right.

The girl threw herself on the sled, aimed it down hill and almost immediately began flying over the snow. She kept gaining speed, going faster and faster. It was almost like flying! Suddenly on the road at the bottom of the hill, a horse drawn cart pulled directly into the path of the sled. The girl couldn't stop. She was going too fast, speeding closer and closer to the horse and cart.

At the last second, she pushed the steering bar as hard as she could and shot safely between the horse's legs. The boys who had been staring after her in terror raced toward her to see if she was all right. One of them said, "Amelia, you steered just like a boy!"

The girl smiled to herself. This was not to be the last time someone would compare her with a boy.

The girl's name was Amelia Earhart.

Amelia's interest in planes began early. She saw her first planes in Toronto, Canada, near a military hospital where she worked. She vowed then to become a pilot when World War I was over. And a few years later, when she visited her parents in Los Angeles, she took her first ride in a plane. To her horror, she discovered that flying lessons would cost $1,000 for 10 hours. To earn the money, she tried to find a job. But no one would hire a girl around an airfield. Finally, she found a job with the telephone company and began taking flying lessons from Miss Neta Snook, one of the first woman fliers. Neta convinced Amelia to cut her hair and wear slacks. Long hair and dressed wouldn't do for a cockpit.

Amelia loved her flying lessons and quickly became a good pilot. She bought her own little yellow plane, called a Canary. One day she decided to see how high she could fly the plane. It was a beautiful day, and she climbed quickly to 13,000 feet. Then she ran into trouble - the plane began to vibrate so hard she thought it would shake apart. Amelia wanted to go higher, but knew it would be safest to land as soon as possible. She was disappointed, but when she got back, an official at the airfield told her she had set a new altitude record for women pilots! This was the first of several records she would set.

A few years later, Amelia became a teacher in Boston. One day, she received a mysterious phone call. The man introduced himself and asked if she would be willing to do something for aviation. H arranged to meet Amelia later to discuss the matter. It was all very secret and exciting, Amelia thought. She was even more excited when she found herself agreeing to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a plane!

The trip was to be kept a secret until the newspapers announced the take-off. Amelia was a passenger on this trip. She met the pilot and the mechanic to talk about the final plans. Three times during the next week they prepared to leave, but each time the weather wasn't good enough.

Finally, early one morning when it was still dark, Amelia received word that they were really leaving. She dressed quickly and took only a few things along. The plane, which had pontoons so it could take off and land on water, was waiting in the harbor. A small group of friends waved goodbye as the three adventurers climbed into the plane called the Friendship. The plane sped over the water, and soared into the sky. Would they ever be seen again?

The Friendship was to make an overnight refueling stop on the coast of Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic. But for 13 days the wind was either too strong or the tide was wrong and their attempts to take off failed. Finally, Amelia and the two men decided it was "now or never." They left most of their things behind, and dumped some gasoline to make the plane as light as possible. The Friendship skimmed away from the shore - water splashed over the motors and made them cough, but the plane gained speed and rose into the air!

Twenty hours and forty minutes later, they landed just off the coast of Wales. They had nearly run out of gas and had flown through a storm and thick fog. Halfway across, their radio had gone dead, so they landed without knowing where they were!

Amelia Earhart became a celebrity. Everyone wanted to meet the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She was the guest of honor at parties, dinners, and dances all over England. When she returned home, she wrote a book about her trip and then took off on a flying sightseeing tour all across the United States. She had many adventures and wrote another book called, For the Fun of It.

For the next few years, Amelia spent her time working to make flying more popular. She was the aviation editor for a women's magazine and then worked for one of the new passenger airlines that were cropping up all over the country. During this time she married George Putnam, a publisher who had helped arrange her flight across the Atlantic. He had also encouraged Amelia to write books about her travels.

Most married women in those days stayed home to keep house, but not Amelia! Mr. Putnam, or G.P. as she called him, had promised never to stand in the way of Amelia's love for flying. He kept his word, even when she announced her intention to try something very dangerous. Amelia Earhart wanted to fly across the Atlantic alone!

On May 21, 1932, she left Newfoundland and set her course for Ireland. Her plane was filled with many instruments to help her fly, but as she checked the control panel she saw that one of the dials was broken - she had no idea how high she was flying! Sometimes she would be so high that ice would form on the wings of the plane - other times, so low that she nearly touched the waves. Then, one after another more things went wrong - a thunderstorm rocked the plane, a tiny flame appeared in the engine, and the reserve gas tank was leaking. She had to land quickly!

At last the Irish coastline appeared. Amelia couldn't see any airfields, but she couldn't wait any longer. She flew low over a meadow and set the plane down amidst a herd of cattle. She had done it! She was the first woman, and only the second person, to cross the Atlantic alone.

Amelia Earhart made two other record-breaking flights alone. The first was a non-stop flight from Hawaii to Oakland, California. The second began in Mexico, for the Mexican government had asked her to take off from Mexico City. She flew non-stop to New York City.

Soon after the second flight, Amelia went to Purdue University as a visiting teacher. She helped with the aviation classes, but her main job was to counsel Purdue's girl students about careers they could enter. She encouraged them to try jobs that women had never held. She rote to G.P. Stating, "Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

Amelia did such a good job counseling the girls that one day the president of the university asked to speak to her. With a big smile, he announced that Purdue was presenting $50,000 to Amelia so that she could purchase a large plane equipped with every kind of scientific instrument imaginable. Amelia was delighted; it was just the kind of plane she wanted. It might even be the kind of plane that could go around the world!

And going around the world was exactly what she planned to do. Amelia wanted to fly around the earth at it's middle - no one had ever done it that way before. She started off once, from California to Hawaii - but something went wrong when she tried to lift off at Honolulu. The plane dropped back to earth and the landing gear was crushed. No one was injured but repairs took a month and were very expensive.

Meanwhile, the weather had changed, so Amelia made plans to fly in the other direction. When the plane was ready, she an G.P. flew to Miami, and from there she and her navigator went alone. They made stops in many exciting places! The Caribbean, South America, Africa, Arabia, India, Singapore, Australia - one month after they left, they landed in New Guinea.

The next stop was the most dangerous part of the trip, to Howland Island, a tiny dot in the Pacific Ocean. Amelia and her navigator started toward the island. For awhile they kept radio contact with people, and then, suddenly, the radio signals ended. People tried to get through to them. But no one answered. Amelia Earhart and her navigator had disappeared from the face of the earth. No one ever saw them or heard from them again. Even now, over forty years later, there is still intense curiosity about her. People still would like to know what happened to Amelia Earhart, the most famous and accomplished of woman pilots.

People still miss her. And at Purdue University in Indiana , they still have her flying clothes, log books, tools, and many of the things that belonged to her. But what remains of Amelia Earhart is more than these things, more even than the big woman's dorm that is named after, Earhart Hall. What remains is the memory of a woman who was curious, brave, courageous, and intelligent. What remains is the idea, which getting stronger every day, that women can do what they want to do. Amelia Earhart was one o f the many women who shoed everyone else that with bravery and effort, women can do just as much as men - if only they try. (Feldhusen, 1988)

on the web

Amelia Earhart's Official Site (by her family)

George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers, Main Page

Purdue Library Special Collection's Earhart Collection Description

Amelia Earhart at Purdue University

Amelia Earhart Category on Yahoo

Mary E. Hopper [MEHopper] | MEHopper@TheWorld.com [posted 03/03/03 | revised 03/03/03]