What is Courage?
According to the dictionary it is defined as “the ability to do something in spite of being full of fear.”
“… she called on all her courage to face the ordeal.”
This is a perfect description of a legend and hero… Amelia Earhart.
Fortitude, Will and Spirit
I am drawn to people who have interesting stories that conjure visions of bravery and intelligence and have stood the test of time and cynicism.
One of these people, to me, is a woman named Amelia Earhart. Wikipedia says:
Amelia Mary Earhart born July 24, 1897 – disappeared July 2, 1937, declared dead January 5, 1939) was an American aviation pioneer and author.
According to family custom, Earhart was named after her two grandmothers, Amelia Josephine Harres and Mary Wells Patton. From an early age, Amelia was the ringleader while her sister Grace Muriel Earhart (1899–1998), two years her junior, acted as the dutiful follower. Amelia was nicknamed “Meeley” (sometimes “Millie”) and Grace was nicknamed “Pidge”; both girls continued to answer to their childhood nicknames well into adulthood.
Born in Atchison, Kansas, Earhart developed a passion for adventure at a young age, steadily gaining flying experience from her twenties. In 1928, Earhart became the first female passenger to cross the Atlantic by airplane (accompanying pilot Wilmer Stultz), for which she achieved celebrity status.
HEADLINE: “First Woman to…”
In 1932, piloting a Lockheed Vega 5B, Earhart made a nonstop solo transatlantic flight, becoming the first woman to achieve such a feat. She received the United States Distinguished Flying Cross for this accomplishment. In 1935, Earhart became a visiting 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 an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.
TRUE ICON: More than the Sum of HER Parts – Real Legend
During an attempt at becoming the first female to complete a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. The two were last seen in Lae, New Guinea, on July 2, 1937, on the last land stop before Howland Island and one of their final legs of the flight. She presumably lost her life in the Pacific during the circumnavigation, just three weeks prior to her fortieth birthday. Nearly one year and six months after she and Noonan disappeared, Earhart was officially declared dead. Investigations and significant public interest in their disappearance still continue over 80 years later.
Amelia Earhart used her innate abilities in the aviation community to generate volumes of respect for those willing to challenge the status quo, and explore one’s potential.
Her Courage: flying through pandemic, pain, and prognostications was her way to Participate with Purpose
Amelia Earhart’s legacy is extremely well defined and cherished. Her sense of adventure and need for challenge are what inspires us about her.
In 1917 Amelia visited her sister in Toronto. World War I had been raging and Amelia saw the returning wounded soldiers. After receiving training as a nurse’s aide from the Red Cross, she began work with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at Spadina Military Hospital. Her duties included preparing food in the kitchen for patients with special diets and handing out prescribed medication in the hospital’s dispensary.
Then in 1918 the Spanish flu pandemic reached Toronto, Earhart was engaged in arduous nursing duties that included night shifts at the Spadina Military Hospital. She became a patient herself, suffering from pneumonia and maxillary sinusitis. She was hospitalized in early November 1918 for pneumonia, and discharged in December 1918. While staying in the hospital during the pre-antibiotic era, she had painful minor operations to wash out the affected maxillary sinus, but these procedures were not successful and she subsequently suffered from worsening headaches. During her nearly yearlong convalescence, she read poetry, learned to play the banjo and studied mechanics.
Chronic sinusitis is a painful and can be a debilitating condition. Especially later in Amelia Earhart’s life because of her flying career. Sinuses are there to address atmospheric pressure around the brain, and Amelia was flying high enough without pressurized cockpits (because they didn’t exist yet) that her sinuses created immense pain at times.
Then all through the 1920s her financial investments and stability started to crumble around her. She and her Mother barnstormed a bit for money and eventually landed in Boston where Amelia found work as a teacher and a social worker, becoming a member of the American Aeronautical Society’s Boston chapter and was eventually elected Vice President, flew the first flight out of Dennison Airport, was a sales representative for Kinner Aircraft, and wrote an aviation promoting column for a local newspaper.
Despite some rough times, Amelia Earhart continued her obsession and dedication to aviation. And when she received and invitation to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic in an airplane she jumped at it… and, so, started her renowned legend in aviation.
A true legend is not bound by race, creed, culture or gender; and Amelia Earhart is no exception to this perspective. Although Amelia set many aviation records specific to women, many “Firsts”, she was an amazing pilot and adventurer without regard to her gender. Here is a sampling of such feats that anyone would have been celebrated for:
Her commitment to her passion, vision and mission knows very few peers. Amelia’s ability to find Accord with the elements of her passion and to be an Ambassador for her vision, all while tapping into her distinct Fortitude to endure incredibly diverse circumstances… she is the epitome of Courage.
When I have a chance to dig into Legends like Amelia Earhart – Fortified, Willful and Spirited – my life is shifted somewhat. Sometimes just little like a adding a piece of Trivia to my mental library, or a lot like a complete shift in perspective or philosophy, or it might pivot my personal objectives and realization of potential.
Either way, I feel very privileged to learn about these people and how/what they did. Do you?
Share your thoughts on Courage and what it means to you.
Maybe you could even share a favorite legend of yours, someone that having learned about them has changed you somehow (even it is just a little).