The real reason Amelia Earhart is so famous


How about this one? Still no? Okay, okay. How about… now. Yup, that’s Amelia Earhart enjoying a ticker-tape
parade in her honor. She’s often thought of as the first or the Her accomplishments are widely known. Among them being the first woman — and second
person ever — to solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean. She was a daring and ambitious pilot, but
so were her peers. Like Louise Thaden, still the only pilot ever
to hold the women’s speed, altitude, and solo-endurance records simultaneously. In 1929, she won the Women’s Air Derby,
the first women’s transcontinental air race. Her friend and rival Amelia Earhart placed
third, after wrecking early on in the race. Or consider Ruth Nichols, who held three simultaneous
flying records in 1931. That year, she flew higher, faster, and farther
than any woman in the world. Amelia’s contemporaries were some of the
best pilots at the time, but they faded into obscurity. While Amelia, a pretty average pilot in comparison, became a legend in her lifetime. So what set her apart from the other record-setting
female pilots, some of whom were measurably better at flying? It was all planned that way. The year was 1927. American aviator Charles Lindbergh became
the first person to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean, and people went wild. Aviation was becoming an American obsession,
and Lindbergh was an instant hero. He was even Time magazine’s first-ever Man
of the Year. And that was an opportunity for George Palmer
Putnam, an influential American publisher, to cash in on the aviation craze. He persuaded Lindbergh to write a book about
his historic flight. “We” was a massive success, and Lindbergh’s
three-month promotional tour made him one of the most recognizable celebrities in the
world. Soon after, wealthy socialite Amy Phipps Guest
acquired a powerful trimotor airplane so she could become the first woman flown over the
Atlantic Ocean. But her family refused to allow something
so dangerous, so she decided to sponsor a young aviatrix to go instead. She asked G.P. Putnam to find her the “right sort of girl”
to make the historic flight. Putnam settled on a 30-year-old social worker
and enthusiastic amateur pilot named, you guessed it, Amelia Earhart. With her short hair and boyish good looks,
she struck a strong resemblance to American icon Charles Lindbergh. Putnam saw an opportunity for another bestseller. For Amelia it was an opportunity to realize
her dream: a career in aviation. She didn’t actually touch any of the controls
during the flight. She rode as a passenger and became the first
woman to cross the Atlantic by air in 1928. Pilot is none other than America’s Miss
Amelia Earhart, world’s leading lady flier. It catapulted her from relative obscurity
into international headlines. And that was all orchestrated by George Putnam,
who was already working with a lot of male aviators on record setting flights and publicity. So he was a master of that. Putnam soon had Amelia working on a book about
her flight. He organized a publicity tour and fed her
new nickname to the press. Lady Lindy. Lady Lindy. Lady Lindy. She flew, she lectured, and also wrote an
aviation column in Cosmopolitan magazine, which she used as a platform to promote aviation
and to encourage other women to enter the field. She even endorsed products like Lucky Strike
cigarettes and a line of designer luggage to finance her flying career. In 1931 Amelia reluctantly married George
Putnam, and together they worked to further her career through publicized record-breaking. Record-setting, making headlines was the way
people were making a living in aviation. And that’s what Amelia did. She often said, “I set a record and then
I lecture on it.” She wanted to fly, and she did what she needed
to do to make it happen. See, at the time, there was no such thing
as commercial aviation or professional flying. After World War I, surplus planes could be
bought cheap, and they were mostly used for mail-carrying, smuggling, and something called
barnstorming, a shockingly reckless practice of public air stunts. Barnstormers traveled from town to town, taking
people up for rides and pulling off maneuvers that terrified and delighted crowds and newspapers. It was a dangerous practice, but it was the
only way to make money as a pilot and gain flying experience in the early ’20s, and
it actually helped launch the careers of some of America’s greatest aviators, including
Bessie Coleman and Charles Lindbergh. As barnstorming eventually fell by the wayside,
record-setting and exploration became the media’s fixation with flying. And that’s exactly what Amelia and her contemporaries
set out to do in order to support their careers. That era is known as the “Golden Age of
Flight,” so all this record-setting was exciting everyone, and getting people to be
familiar with aviation, consider it as a form of transportation, and invest in it. So these early pilots served a purpose to
make it familiar and get people excited about it. Amelia Earhart Putnam lands at Newark, after
her epochal 2,500-mile hop from Los Angeles, breaking Ruth Nichols’s distance record
and setting a new time mark for women. It took me about 19 hours and a few minutes
to make the trip. I wish I could have done it faster. Amelia was very comfortable with the press. She learned very early how to talk to them. When she was flying she looked very much like
a man, but when she was on camera, she came across as much more soft-spoken. So in that way she didn’t threaten her audiences,
even though she was doing this extraordinary thing, making a career in aviation. But Amelia wasn’t satisfied with being a
passenger in the historic flight that made her famous. She referred to her role in it as a “sack
of potatoes” and wanted to change that. So she decided to become the second person
ever to solo the Atlantic Ocean. Putnam began making the arrangements, and
on the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s daring flight, Amelia took off in her red
Lockheed Vega, eventually touching down in Northern Ireland. Here you see Lady Lindy, whose triumphant
solo flight across the Atlantic is the admiration of the whole world. What a wonderful woman — and isn’t she
like Lindbergh! She had made this really courageous flight
— people were still routinely getting killed flying across the Atlantic Ocean, so the fact
that she did that on her own really gave her credibility. The reaction was crazy, but it had been crazy
for Charles Lindbergh too. Amelia went from amateur pilot to national
treasure in just four years. Her publicity campaigns not only crafted her
image as the premier female pilot, they also allowed her to keep flying. And while she might not have been the most
skilled pilot of her time, 80 years since her disappearance she’s still the most enduring. Miss Earhart was acclaimed for her competitive
daring, but also admired for her grace and charm. She was to hold the headlines for almost 10
years. Here at the height of her fame she arrives
at New York City Hall, America’s top woman pilot. A woman who asked no quarter in competing
in the world of men.

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