Amelia Earhart was born in 1897 in Kansas. Her father was an alcoholic, and her mother left him and moved to Chicago, taking Amelia and her sister, in 1914.
Earhart graduated from high school in 1915, then received training as a nurse's aide and worked in nursing in Toronto until the end of World War I. In 1919, she enrolled in the pre-med program at Columbia University, but she quit and moved to California before she graduated.
In California, Earhart saw a stunt flying show and immediately decided to learn to fly. She worked at the telephone company and drove a truck to earn money for flying lessons. In 1923, Earhart became the sixteenth woman ever to be issued a pilot's license by the FAI.
Not able to make a living as a high-altitude flyer, Earhart moved to Boston in 1925, where she began working as a social worker. She also wrote columns for local papers on flying and specifically on encouraging women to fly, and she became somewhat of a local celebrity.
After Charles Lindbergh's history-making flight across the Atlantic in 1927, a wealthy American expatriate living in London, Amy Guest, offered to sponsor a woman to do the same. In 1928, this project was offered to Earhart. For this first flight, however, she was a passenger, not the pilot. Still, the flight made history and made Earhart a bit more of a celebrity.
In 1929, Earhart began to support herself with competitive flying and endorsements. She was dubbed "Lady Lindy" (a reference to Lindbergh) and broke altitude records. In 1931, she married her publicist.
In 1932, Earhart took her solo cross-Atlantic flight. She intended to fly from Newfoundland to Paris, but was forced by bad weather and mechanical problems to land in Northern Ireland. After this first flight, Earhart set several other records, including speed records and the first solo flight from Hawaii to California.
In 1936, Earhart began to plan an around-the-world flight, following the equatorial route. The flight began on St. Patrick's Day in 1937, when Earhart and her crew flew from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. The plane was damaged upon landing in Hawaii and the rest of the flight had to be called off. Funding was secured for a second, try, this time west to east. Earhart and the crew flew first from California to Florida, then made stops in South American, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia, arriving in New Guinea on June 29, 1937.
The plane disappeared between New Guinea and Howland Island on July 2, 1937. There were several hours of garbled communications from the plane, but the Coast Guard stationed on Howland Island was never able to access Earhart's position. Short wave radio calls for help were heard for several days after the plane's disappearance, but nothing was complete enough to find the plane. The Navy and Coast Guard searched for the down plane for two weeks, but it was never found.