Amelia Earhart Biography and Timeline: Birth to Disappearance

Events in the Life and Career of Amelia Earhart, Pioneer Woman Pilot

Amelia Earhart and Her Plane
Amelia Earhart and Her Plane. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Amelia Mary Earhart (Putnam) was known in her lifetime for setting records in aviation. She was an aviator -- a pioneer in the field, with many firsts for women. She was also a lecturer and writer

Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off on their last airplane trip June 1, 1937, then vanished on July 2, 1937, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Here is a short biography and then a timeline of some key events leading up to that fateful day:


Amelia Earhart was born July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas. Her father was a lawyer for a railroad company, a job which required frequent moving, and so Amelia Earhart and her sister lived with grandparents until Amelia was 12. She then moved around with her parents for some years, until her father lost his job due to a drinking problem.

At age 20, Amelia Earhart, on a trip to Toronto, Canada, volunteered as a nurse's aide at a military hospital, part of the World War I war effort. She made several tries at studying medicine and she worked at other jobs including social work, but after she discovered flying, that became her passion.


Amelia Earhart's first flight was at an airshow with her father, which motivated her first to learn to fly -- her teacher was Neta Snook, the first woman instructor to graduate from the Curtiss School of Aviation.

Amelia Earhart then bought her own plane and began to set records, but sold the plane to drive East with her newly-divorced mother.

In 1926, magazine publisher George Putnam tapped Amelia Earhart to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic -- as a passenger. The pilot and navigator were both men. Amelia Earhart became an instant celebrity as a woman aviator, and began to give lectures and fly in shows, again setting records. In one notable incident, she flew First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt over Washington, D.C.

Setting More Records

In 1931, George Putnam, now divorced, married Amelia Earhart. She flew solo across the Atlantic in 1932, and in 1935 became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the mainland. In 1935 she also set speed records traveling from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to New York.

Purdue University hired Amelia Earhart as a faculty member to counsel female students on opportunities, and in 1937 Purdue gave Amelia Earhart a plane.

Flying Around the World

Amelia Earhart was determined to fly around the world. Replacing her first navigator with Fred Noonan, and after several false starts, Amelia Earhart began her round-the-world flight on June 1, 1937.

Near the end of the trip, Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan missed their expected landing on Howland Island in the Pacific, and their fate is still uncertain. Theories include crashing over the ocean, crashing on Howland Island or a nearby island without the ability to contact help, being shot down by the Japanese, or being captured or killed by the Japanese.

Amelia Earhart Timeline / Chronology

1897 (July 24) - Amelia Earhart born in Atchison, Kansas

1908 - Amelia moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where she saw her first airplane

1913 - Amelia moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, with her family

1914 - the Earhart family moved to Springfield, Missouri, and then to Chicago; her father moved to Kansas

1916 - Amelia Earhart graduated from high school in Chicago and moved back to Kansas with her mother and sister to live with her father

1917 - Amelia Earhart began college at Ogontz School, Pennsylvania

1918 - Amelia Earhart volunteered as a nurse in a military hospital in Canada

1919 (spring) - Amelia Earhart took an auto repair class -- for girls only -- in Massachusetts, where she moved to live with her mother and sister

1919 (fall) - Amelia Earhart began pre-med program at Columbia University in New York

1920 - Amelia Earhart left Columbia

1920 - after moving to California, Amelia Earhart took her first flight in an airplane

1921 (January 3) - Amelia Earhart began flying lessons

1921 (July) - Amelia Earhart bought her first plane

1921 (December 15) - Amelia Earhart earned a National Aeronautic Association license

1922 (October 22) - Amelia Earhart set an unofficial altitude record for women, 14,000 feet -- the first of her records

1923 (May 16) - Amelia Earhart earned a pilot’s license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale -- the sixteenth woman to be issued such a license

1924 - Amelia Earhart sold her aircraft and bought an automobile, driving cross-country in June with her mother to move to Massachusetts

1924 (September) - Earhart returned to Columbia University

1924 (May) - Earhart again left Columbia

1926-1927 - Amelia Earhart worked at Denison House, a Boston settlement house

1928 (June 17-18) - Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic (she was a passenger on this flight with pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis Gordon). She met George Putnam, one of the sponsors of the flight, a member of the Putnam publishing family, and himself a publicist.

1928 (September-October 15) - Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across North America

1928 (September-) - Amelia Earhart embarked on lecture tour organized by George Putnam

1929 - Amelia Earhart published her first book, 20 Hours and 40 Minutes

1929 (November 2) - helped found the Ninety-Nines, an organization for women pilots

1929 - 1930 - Amelia Earhart worked for Transcontinental Air transport (TWA) and the Pennsylvania Railroad

1930 (July) - Amelia Earhart set a women's speed recordof 181.18 mph

1930 (September) - Amelia Earhart's father, Edwin Earhart, died of cancer

1930 (October) - Amelia Earhart received her air transport license

1931 (February 7) - Amelia Earhart married George Palmer Putnam

1931 (May 29 - June 22) - Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly across the continent in an autogiro

1932 - wrote The Fun of It

1932 (May 20-21) - Amelia Earhart flew solo across Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland, in 14 hours 56 minutes -- the first woman and the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic, the first person to cross the Atlantic twice non-stop, and also setting the record for the longest distance flown by a woman and for the fastest flight across the Atlantic

1932 (August) - Amelia Earhart set a record for the fastest women's non-stop transcontinental flight, 19 hours, 5 minutes -- flying from Los Angeles to Newark

1933 - Amelia Earhart was a guest at the White House of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt

1933 (July) - Amelia Earhart bested her own transcontinental flying time, this record at 17:07:30

1935 (January 11-12) - Amelia Earhart flew from Hawaii to California, becoming the first person to fly that route solo (17:07) -- and the first civilian pilot to use a two-way radio on a flight

1935 (April 19-20) - Amelia Earhart was the first to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City

1935 (May 8) - Amelia Earhart was the first to fly solo from Mexico City to Newark

1935 - Amelia Earhart became a consultant at Purdue University, focusing on aeronautic careers for women

1936 (July) - Amelia Earhart received a new Lockhead twin engine plane, an Electra 10E, financed by Purdue University

1936 - Amelia Earhart began planning for a flight around the world along the equator, using her new (and unfamiliar) Electra

1937 (March) - Amelia Earhart, with navigator Fred Noonan, began her flight around the world along the equator from east to west, flying from Oakland, California, to Hawaii in 15 hours, 47 minutes, a new speed record for that route

1937 (March 20) - ground-looped when taking off in Hawaii headed for Howland Island for a refueling stop; Amelia Earhart returned the plane to the Lockheed factory in California for repairs

May 21 - Amelia Earhart took off from California for Florida

June 1 - Earhart and Noonan took off from Miami, Florida, heading west to east, reversing the planned direction for the around-the-world flight

- along the way, Amelia Earhart sent letters to her husband with notes about the trip, which Putnam arranged to have Gimbels publish as a way of helping to finance the trip

- first flight from the Red Sea to India

- at Calcutta, according to Earhart's report, Noonan was drunk

- at Bandoing, between stops in Singapore and Australia, Amelia Earhart made some repairs on the instruments as she recovered from a bout of dysentery

- at Australia, Amelia Earhart had the direction finder repaired, and decided to leave the parachutes behind as no longer needed, since the rest of the trip would be over water

- at Lae, New Guinea, according to Earhart's reports, Noonan was again drunk

July 2, 10:22 a.m. - Amelia Earhart with Fred Noonan took off from Lae, New Guinea, with about 20 hours of fuel, to fly to Howland Island for a refueling stop

July 2 - Amelia Earhart was in radio contact with New Guinea for about seven hours

July 3, 3 a.m. - Amelia Earhart was in radio contact with the Coast Guard vessel Itasca

3:45 a.m. - Amelia Earhart reported by radio that weather was "overcast"

- a few weak transmissions followed

6:15 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. - Amelia Earhart asked for a bearing on her signal

7:45 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. - 3 more transmissions heard, also mentioned "gas is running low"

8:45 a.m. - last message heard, including "will repeat message" -- then no more transmissions heard

- naval ships and aircraft began search for the aircraft and Earhart and Noonan

- various radio signals purporting to be from Earhart or Noonan were reported

July 19, 1937 - search abandoned by naval ships and aircraft, Putnam continued private search

October, 1937 - Putnam abandoned his search

1939 - Amelia Earhart declared legally dead in a court in California

Amelia Earhart and Women's History

Why did Amelia Earhart capture the imagination of the public? As a woman daring to do what few women -- or men -- had done, at a time when the organized women's movement had virtually disappeared, she represented a woman willing to break out of traditional roles.