Woman of the Week
This is the second in a series of pieces in honor of Women’s History Month in which we asked each of our editors to discuss her favorite historical female heroine. Julie Ryan Evans, Life Stages editor, chose Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer and women’s rights advocate.
Out of all the women in history why did you choose Amelia Earhart as your personal favorite?
I chose Amelia Earhart for several reasons—first because of her incredible bravery. I have enough problems with nerves while I’m flying today in modern aircraft. To be brave enough to fly in those early experiments is just amazing to me.
Secondly, I think she’s a great example of why women should embrace new technology and not be afraid of change. Too often I hear women say, “Oh, I don’t get technology; I’m illiterate when it comes to these things; I can’t even figure out my iPod”. And while I understand technology can be intimating, it’s what’s going to keep us current, keep us relevant in the workforce and keep improving our lives. We need to embrace technology—even if we’re staying home with our kids at the time. We can’t be afraid of change and let the times pass us by. Instead, we need to emulate Amelia Earhart and soar with them.
Describe briefly the impact she made/legacy she left?
Where to begin? She set numerous records for altitude and speed. Of course, she was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; and she the first pilot—male or female—to fly many, many routes—such as from the Red Sea to India.
She demonstrated to the world the physical and mental bravery of women. She showed that women can compete with men, and that we don’t need protecting from adventure or taking risks.
What were the biggest obstacles she overcame?
She fought hard for women’s rights in a man’s world, and inspired others through her actions. As Earhart said, “… now and then women should do for themselves what men have already done—occasionally what men have not done—thereby establishing themselves as persons, and perhaps encouraging other women toward greater independence of thought and action. Some such consideration was a contributing reason for my wanting to do what I so much wanted to do.”
And I love this other famous quote from her, “Women must pay for everything. They do get more glory than men for comparable feats. But, they also get more notoriety when they crash.” I’m thinking Hillary (Clinton) would probably agree.
If she were alive today, what do you think she would be doing? What would she think of women’s status today?
I think she’d be at NASA. She would have already walked on the moon and gone into space. Perhaps she would have explored new frontiers that no one today has.
What’s a little-known fact you think everyone should know about Amelia Earhart?
She did so much with her talents beyond flying. She was an editor for Cosmopolitan magazine; she had her own clothing line that sold at Macy’s. She was a savvy businesswoman, a poet, a teacher and a feminist ahead of her time. After marrying, she kept her own name; and she established The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an aviation organization for female pilots that has more than 6,000 members today.