On May 21,1937, record-setting pilot and celebrity Amelia Earhart set out to become the first woman to fly around the world. By July 2, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, had flown more than 22,000 miles. They intended to make three long over-water flights across the Pacific Ocean to complete the voyage: from New Zealand to Howland Island in the central Pacific, Howland to Hawaii, and Hawaii to San Francisco.
Instead, they vanished en route to Howland Island. Since then, Earhart and Noonan’s disappearance has remained the greatest unsolved mystery of the 20th century.
But is that the only reason Earhart deserves to be remembered? What other qualities still resonate, regardless of her fate? Exploring the disappearance theories can be fun or frustrating, but they lead to the realization that when Earhart disappeared, the world lost a pioneering woman of intriguing complexity, one who throughout her life felt compelled to follow a path far from the norm.
Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the Air and Space Museum, separates fact from fiction using official U.S. government records and Earhart’s own words. Examining her accomplishments and her shortcomings, Cochrane reveals why Amelia Earhart’s legacy still challenges and inspires in the 21st century.