She was a heroine for independent women the world over, and Rhianna’s recent tribute proves her inspiration is still felt today.
Throughout history there have been icons that remain indelible in the public consciousness. Amelia Earhart is one such person, whose determination and spirit captured the imagination of not only her native United States, but of the world. And this influence shows no signs of signs of diminishing; glamorous Academy Award nominee Amy Adams portrayed Earhart in the 2009 film Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian and the musical Take Flight, which followed the lives of Amelia and other groundbreaking aviators, was staged in 2011. The most astonishing homage, however, is also the most recent: pop singer and provocateur Rihanna has appeared in the 150th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of high fashion bible Harper’s Bazaar dressed top-to-toe in Amelia Earhart-inspired clothing and even standing on the wings of a plane. To quote the songstress herself, ‘Amelia Earhart was such a dynamic force… it was a no-brainer for me to team up with Harper’s Bazaar in honour of a woman who held her own with the big boys.’
It’s no surprise that Earhart has left such a lasting impression. Born in Kansas in 1897, Earhart’s first brush with aviation was not a success; on seeing her first airplane aged ten at a state fair, she was reportedly unimpressed. ‘It was a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting,’ she complained. Luckily, it was not her last encounter and on December 28, 1920, she took her first flight and the spark was lit. In her own words: ‘By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly.’
Adventure is worthwhile in itself
Making her mind up turned out to be the easy part and Earhart faced many obstacles on her way to becoming an aviator, not least prejudice, as well as financial hindrances, but in 1921 she bought her first plane. Nicknamed ‘The Canary’ due to its bright yellow paint job, the second-hand Kinner Airster biplane became Earhart’s obsession. Her first real aviation achievement was in 1928 when she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, taking off in Newfoundland, Canada with two other pilots and arriving 21 hours later in Burry Port, Wales. A parade was thrown in New York and Earhart was personally received by President Coolidge. It was not the last president she would meet. From then on no challenge seemed too big and in 1932 she became the first woman and second person ever to cross the Atlantic solo.
Her career was one of firsts: the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the first person to fly solo across the Pacific, the first person to fly an auto-gyro 18,415 feet into the air. Amelia Earhart was and is the embodiment of adventure and, even when she met with tragedy in 1937, it was attempting to realise her dream to become the first woman ever to fly around the world. Her enduring poise and unparalleled determination has inspired generations of men and women alike to push the boundaries of what is accepted and keep flying higher. To quote the woman herself, she proved that ‘adventure is worthwhile in itself’.