This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program
EXPLORATIONS. Today, we tell about Amelia Earhart. She was one
of America¡¯s first female pilots.
Amelia Earhart was born in eighteen-ninety-seven in the middle
western state of Kansas. She was not a child of her times. Most
American girls at the beginning of the twentieth century were
taught to sit quietly and speak softly. They were not permitted
to play ball or climb trees. Those activities were considered
fun for boys. They were considered wrong for girls.
Amelia and her younger sister Muriel were lucky. Their parents
believed all children needed physical activity to grow healthy
and strong. So Amelia and Muriel were very active girls. They
rode horses. They played baseball and basketball. They went
fishing with their father. Other parents would not let their
daughters play with Amelia and Muriel.
The Earharts lived in a number of places in America¡¯s
middle west when the girls were growing up. The family was living
in Chicago, Illinois when Amelia completed high school in nineteen-sixteen.
Amelia then prepared to enter a university. During a holiday,
she visited her sister in Toronto, Canada. World War One had
begun by then. And Amelia was shocked by the number of wounded
soldiers sent home from the fighting in France. She decided
she would be more useful as a nurse than as a student. So she
joined the Red Cross.
Amelia Earhart first became interested in flying while living
in Toronto. She talked with many pilots who were treated at
the soldiers¡¯ hospital. She also spent time watching
planes at a nearby military airfield. Flying seemed exciting.
But the machinery ? the plane itself ? was exciting, too.
After World War One ended, Amelia spent a year recovering from
the disease pneumonia. She read poetry and went on long walks.
She learned to play the banjo. And she went to school to learn
When she was healthy again, she entered Columbia University
in New York City. She studied medicine. After a year she went
to California to visit her parents. During that trip, she took
her first ride in an airplane. And when the plane landed, Amelia
Earhart had a new goal in life. She would learn to fly.
One of the world¡¯s first female pilots, Neta Snook,
taught Amelia to fly. It did not take long for Amelia to make
her first flight by herself. She received her official pilot¡¯s
license in nineteen-twenty. Then she wanted a plane of her own.
She earned most of the money to buy it by working for a telephone
company. Her first plane had two sets of wings, a bi-plane.
On June seventeenth, nineteen-twenty-eight, the plane left
the eastern province of Newfoundland, Canada. The pilot and
engine expert were men. The passenger was Amelia Earhart. The
planed landed in Wales twenty hours and forty minutes later.
For the first time, a woman had crossed the Atlantic Ocean by
Amelia did not feel very important, because she had not flown
the plane. Yet the public did not care. People on both sides
of the Atlantic were excited by the tall brave girl with short
hair and gray eyes. They organized parties and parades in her
honor. Suddenly, she was famous.
Amelia Earhart had become the first lady of the air. She wrote
a book about the flight. She made speeches about flying. And
she continued to fly by herself across the United States and
Flying was a new and exciting activity in the early nineteen-twenties.
Pilots tested and demonstrated their skills in air shows. Amelia
soon began taking part in these shows. She crashed one time
in a field of cabbage plants. The accident did not stop her
from flying. But she said it did decrease her desire to eat
Flying was fun, but costly. Amelia could not continue. She
sold her bi-plane, bought a car and left California. She moved
across the country to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. She
taught English to immigrants and then became a social worker.
In the last years of the nineteen-twenties, hundreds of record
flights were made. A few were made by women. But no woman had
flown across the Atlantic Ocean.
A wealthy American woman, Amy Guest, bought a plane to do this.
However, her family opposed the idea. So she looked for another
woman to take her place. Friends proposed Amelia Earhart.
American publisher George Putnam had helped organize the Atlantic
Ocean flight that made Amelia famous. Afterwards, he continued
to support her flying activities. In nineteen-thirty-one, George
and Amelia were married. He helped provide financial support
for her record flights.
On May twentieth, nineteen-thirty-two, Amelia took off from
Newfoundland. She headed east in a small red and gold plane.
Amelia had problems with ice on the wings, fog from the ocean
and instruments that failed. At one point, her plane dropped
suddenly nine-hundred meters. She regained control. And after
fifteen hours she landed in Ireland.
She had become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean
This Lockheed Vega 5B in which Amelia Earhart crossed the Atlantic
in 1932 is in the Air & Space Museum in Washington.
(Photo - Smithsonian Institution)
In the next few years, Amelia Earhart set more records and
received more honors. She was the first to fly from Hawaii to
California alone. She was the first to fly from Mexico City
to New York City without stopping.
Amelia hoped her flights would prove that flying was safe for
everyone. She hoped women would have jobs at every level of
the industry when flying became a common form of transportation.
In nineteen-thirty-five, the president of Purdue University
in Indiana asked Amelia to do some work there. He wanted her
to be an adviser on aircraft design and navigation. He also
wanted her to be a special adviser to female students.
Purdue University provided Amelia with a new all-metal, two-engine
plane. It had so many instruments she called it the ¡°Flying
Laboratory.¡± It was the best airplane in the world
at that time.
Amelia decided to use this plane to fly around the world. She
wanted to go around the equator. It was a distance of forty-three-thousand
kilometers. No one had attempted to fly that way before.
Amelia¡¯s trip was planned carefully. The goal was
not to set a speed record. The goal was to gather information.
Crew members would study the effects of height and temperature
on themselves and the plane. They would gather small amounts
of air from the upper atmosphere. And they would examine the
condition of airfields throughout the world.
Amelia knew the trip would be dangerous. A few days before
she left, she gave a small American flag to her friend Jacqueline
Cochran, another female pilot. Amelia had carried the flag on
all her major flights. Jacqueline did not want to take it until
Amelia returned from her flight around the world. ¡°No,¡±
Amelia told her, ¡°you had better take it now.¡±
Amelia and three male crew members were to make the flight.
However, a minor accident and weather conditions forced a change
in plans. So on June first, nineteen-thirty-seven, a silver
Lockheed Electra plane left Miami, Florida. It carried pilot
Amelia Earhart and just one male crew member, navigator Fred
Amelia and Fred headed south toward the equator. They stopped
in Puerto Rico, Surinam and Brazil. They crossed the Atlantic
Ocean to Africa, where they stopped in Senegal, Chad, Sudan
and Ethiopia. Then they continued on to India, Burma, Thailand,
Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.
When they reached New Guinea, they were about to begin the
most difficult part of the trip. They would fly four-thousand
kilometers to tiny Howland Island in the middle of the Pacific
Three hours after leaving New Guinea, Amelia sent back a radio
message. She said she was on a direct path to Howland Island.
Later, Amelia¡¯s radio signals were received by a
United States Coast Guard ship near the island. The messages
began to warn of trouble. Fuel was getting low. They could not
find Howland Island. They could not see any land at all.
The radio signals got weaker and weaker. A message on the morning
of July second was incomplete. Then there was silence.
American Navy ships and planes searched the area for fifteen
days. They found nothing. Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan were
officially declared ¡°lost at sea.¡±
This Special English Program was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano.
It was produced by Paul Thompson. This is Mary Tillotson.
And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another
EXPLORATIONS program on the VOICE OF AMERICA.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com