[Amelia Earhart in airplane] (1936) by Harris & EwingOriginal Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Who was Amelia Earhart?
The early age of aviation was dotted with firsts. The Wright Brothers first flights in 1903, Charles Lindbergh’s solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927. But it is perhaps Earhart’s achievements that really define this golden age of aviation.
Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic, making her journey in 1928. The feat won her international notoriety, and together with later accomplishments, the United States Distinguished Flying Cross.
LIFE Photo Collection
Why are her arial achievements so inspirational?
When Earhart made her crossing, women had only been able to vote in the US for 8 years. And even then, only women of certain status, race and position. That Earhart was able to achieve what she did at the time is truly remarkable. Her pioneering work for equal rights carried on when she became a faculty member at Purdue University as an advisor to aeronautical engineering and a career counselor to women students. She was also a member of the National Woman’s Party and supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment
Goggles, Flying, Amelia EarhartSmithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
What's the story behind the goggles?
These flight goggles are more than just a pair of eye protectors. They are a symbol of what can be achieved against the odds and with incredible bravery. They were worn by Earhart as she took part in the 1929 Women’s National Air Derby, one of the very first air races for women.
In fact, such was her celebrity, they were taken from her plane during a stop at San Bernadino shortly after the race began – presumably by someone looking for a souvenir. They were later recovered, although the lenses were missing.
Today, these goggles, along with a program from the race and a note addressed to Earhart verifying her as the original owner can be seen in the Smithsonian, having been donated in 1957.
Can you find Earhart's goggles?
Have a look around the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC and see if you can find Earhart’s goggles. You might also be able to find her Lockheed Vega 5B. This was the plane she used both to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic in 1932 and when she flew non-stop across the US. Both of these were also firsts for woman, highlighting what a truly incredible pioneer and aviator Earhart really was.
LIFE Photo Collection