More than 85 years ago, America’s famous aviatrix, Amelia Mary Earhart (July 24, 1897 – missing July 2, 1937, declared dead January 5, 1939) became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Daring and determined, she has long provided a rich source of inspiration – and, in death, she remains one of the remarkable enigmas of modern American history.
Amelia Earhart was born in her grandparents’ residence, located high on a bluff with a splendid view of the Missouri River. Earhart had one sibling, Muriel, born three years later, and they spent a great deal of their childhood with their grandparents – approximately 12 years. Their grandfather, Judge Alfred Otis, was one of Atchison’s most influential members.
Earhart fell in love with flying at a young age, and she bought her first plane in 1921. One year later, she broke the women’s altitude record of 14,000 feet. In 1930, she established the women’s speed record for 100 kilometers without a load, and with a load of 500 kilograms, and blazed the speed record of 181.18 mph over a 3-kilometer course.
In August 1932, the trailblazing pilot claimed the women’s nonstop, solo transcontinental speed record, flying 2,447.8 miles in 19 hours, 5 minutes. (Less than one year later, she bested her own feat, making the same flight in 17 hours, 7 minutes.) Eventually, she became the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean. Over the course of May 20-21, 1932, Earhart journeyed the length of Atlantic in 14 hours, 56 minutes. In 1935, she became the first individual to fly unaccompanied from Los Angeles to Mexico City and then nonstop from Mexico City to Newark: 14hrs, 19min.
Earhart, the first female to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, not only set many other records, but wrote best-selling books, lectured, worked as a magazine editor and vice president of public relations for a new airline. She was also active in the establishment of the female pilot group called The Ninety-Nines.
In 1937, while attempting to circumnavigate the globe, she disappeared. The aircraft vanished somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean, near Howland Island – no evidence has ever been able to incontrovertibly explain where and how she disappeared. Ultimately, Earhart died experiencing her vision, following her heart; she carved her own unique path, and clubbed and conquered all the obstacles that she faced along the way.
The Amelia Earhart birthplace museum is a wood-cased, Gothic Revival-style structure, built circa 1860; the rear brick, Italianate add-on was constructed in 1873. The Earhart family lived at 223 N. Terrace address in Atchison until 1912, and other families occupied it until 1984. In 1994, the home saw significant restoration, including a finished caretaker’s suite on the second floor, central air conditioning installation and faux woodwork replicated to the 1897 -1909 period. Since then the walls and ceilings have been repaired, the floors refinished to the period, and other renovations have been completed. Historic home furnishings include the chest given to young Amelia by her grandmother.
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