Giving Flight to Equal Rights

August 24th marks the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s first record-breaking transcontinental flight. In 1932, Ms. Earhart flew from Los Angeles to Newark in 19 hours and 5 minutes. In doing so, she became the fastest woman to fly solo, non-stop, across North America. The next year she would go on to break her own record, completing the same flight in 17 hours and 7 minutes.

As a pioneering aviatrix, Amelia barreled across gender boundaries and inspired leagues of women to pursue their passions and choose their own adventures. Indeed, her superlative achievements in a “masculine” profession mark her as an icon of the woman’s movement. However, it was her foray into the political fight for women’s freedoms that gave wings to the burgeoning equal rights movement. A proud member of the National Woman’s Party (NWP), Ms. Earhart actively lobbied Washington to pass the Lucretia Mott Amendment, now known in its current iteration as the Equal Rights Amendment. On September 17, 1932, months after that historic transcontinental flight, she stood before President Hoover and issued the following statement:

“Mr. President, I know from practical experience of the discriminations which confront women when they enter an occupation where men have priority in opportunity, advancement, and promotion. In aviation, the Department of Commerce recognizes no legal difference between men and women licensed to fly. I feel that similar equality should be carried into all fields of endeavor so that men and women may achieve, without handicap because of sex. As far as our own country is concerned, in every State of the Union today, there are discriminations against women in the law. I join the National Woman’s Party in hoping for the speedy passage of the Lucretia Mott Amendment which would write into the highest law of our land that ‘Men and women shall have Equal Rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.’”

The NWP was proud to have her as a delegate, praising Earhart in the October 1932 issue of the suffragist publication Equal Rights, “There are individual women in the world who can achieve their goal in spite of discriminations in law and custom. Rare is such an individual who can realize that where she had the strength to overcome regardless of handicap upon her sex, the mass of womankind has not. Women of this country should be proud and grateful to this great woman.”

Certainly, Amelia Earhart worked hard to create a political landscape that would make it easier for women to pursue the same opportunities as men. Aware of her own success, she lent her celebrity and her support to National Woman’s Party and in doing so, propelled the equal rights movement to new heights.

Would you like to learn more about Ms. Earhart’s involvement with the National Woman’s Party? Please browse our Photograph and Books & Periodicals Collections to discover more about Amelia Earhart, the feminist.

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