When 10-year-old Amelia Mary Earhart saw her first plane at a state fair, she was not impressed. "It was a thing of rusty wire and wood and looked not at all interesting," she said. It wasn't until Earhart attended a stunt-flying exhibition, almost a decade later, that she became seriously interested in aviation. 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,'" she said. Earhart, who felt a mixture of fear and pleasure, stood her ground. As the plane swooped by, something inside her awakened. "I did not understand it at the time," she said, "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," she said, "I knew I had to fly."
Although Earhart's convictions were strong, challenging prejudicial and financial obstacles awaited her. But the former tomboy was no stranger to disapproval or doubt. Defying conventional feminine behavior, the 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. Earhart took her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921, and in six months managed to save enough money to buy her first plane. The second-hand Kinner Airster was a two-seater...
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