[Amelia Earhart, left]
Amelia Mary Earhart was the first aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record and set many aviation records. She wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. Defying conventional feminine behavior, a young Earhart climbed trees, "belly slammed" her sled to start it downhill, and hunted rats with a .22 rifle. She also kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about successful women in predominantly male-oriented fields, including film direction and production, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering. After graduating from Hyde Park High School in 1915, Earhart attended Ogontz, a girl's finishing school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She left in the middle of her second year to work as a nurse's aide in a military hospital in Canada during WWI, attended college, and later became a social worker at Denison House, a settlement house in Boston. 19-year-old Amelia Mary Earhart attended a stunt-flying exhibition. A pilot spotted Earhart and her friend, who were watching from an isolated clearing, and dove at them. "I am sure he said to himself, 'Watch me make them scamper... I did not understand it at the time, but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by." On December 28, 1920, pilot Frank Hawks gave her a ride that would forever change her life. "By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground, I knew I had to fly." Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921. In six months, managed to save enough money to buy her first plane. The second-hand Kinner Airster was a two-seater biplane painted bright yellow—Earhart named her newest obsession "The Canary" and used it to set her first women's record by rising to an altitude of 14,000 feet. During an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Fascination with her life, career, and disappearance continues to this day.