This Week in History: Amelia Earhart Takes Off for Hawaii-to-U.S. Mainland Flight on January 11, 1935

Amelia Earhart

The aviator Amelia Earhart started a journey to Oakland, California on January 11, 1935 from Honolulu that she would complete the following day, becoming the first person to fly from Hawaii to the United States mainland.

Earhart's arrival in Oakland from HawaiiThe New York Times depicted the initial moments of the flight: “She taxied down slowly to her starting point in the middle of the field and then gave the plane the gun and got up quickly. As the ship went down the runway the propeller blast blew big chunks of mud from the field and over the red fuselage.”

The flight was merely one of Ms. Earhart’s several revolutionary accomplishments. Her most celebrated came in 1932 when she became the first woman (and just the second person, following Charles Lindbergh) to fly alone across the Atlantic. Further, she was the first woman to fly as a passenger across the Atlantic, the first woman to fly solo across the United States, and the first person to fly from Los Angeles to Mexico City. Moreover, she set multiple speed and altitude records.

Ms. Earhart attempted to set a distance record flying around the world near the equator in 1937. In July, nearly a month into her trip, Ms. Earhart, together with the navigator Fred Noonan, went missing while flying to Howland Island, a small coral airstrip in the South Pacific, from New Guinea. In the face of an encompassing search, Ms. Earhart, Mr. Noonan, and the plane were never found.

Amelia Earhart 2Feminist icon

The facts of Amelia Earhart’s demise remain puzzling. While it is largely probable that the plane crashed into the Pacific and sank, there is some indication that hints that she died on a deserted island. There are also several urban legends that include her assuming a false identity, being taken prisoner, and being a spy.

Almost 80 years following her disappearance, people still generally regard Amelia Earhart as a feminist icon. In a 1996 New York Times Magazine article, the author Camille Paglia wrote: “Amelia Earhart symbolizes modern woman’s invasion of the male world of daring action and adventure. … Dashing in man-tailored shirts, jackets, and slacks, Earhart became an icon of the rapidly evolving new woman who sought self-definition and fulfillment outside the home.”