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Article: Influential Women of the Sky and Space

Influential Women of the Sky and Space

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate and remember the great and powerful achievements of women throughout history and today. Two women who have made an impact on women’s achievements are Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride. Amelia Earhart was the first female pilot to ever fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. 

Amelia Earhart worked as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Canada during WWII, attended college, and became a social worker, all before taking her first flying lesson on January 3, 1921 (The Family of Amelia Earhart).  Later on, in 1928, Earhart accompanied pilot Wilmer Stultz and copilot and mechanic Louis Gordon on a transatlantic flight. Even though she did not fly the plane, their landmark flight made headlines worldwide because three other female pilots had died within that year trying to be that first woman to fly across the Atlantic. When the crew returned to the United States, they were greeted with a ticker-tape parade in New York and a reception held by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House. 

Some years later, on the morning of May 20, 1932, she set out on her first solo transatlantic flight. She intended to fly to Paris in her single engine Lockhead Vega 5B to emulate Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight five years earlier. After 14 hours and 56 minutes, during which time she contended with strong northerly winds, icy conditions and mechanical problems, Earhart landed in Northern Ireland. The landing was witnessed by Cecil King and T. Sawyer. When a farm hand asked, "Have you flown far?" Earhart replied, "From America.” In the years that followed, Earhart continued to reach new heights, setting an altitude record for autogyros of 18,415 feet that stood for years. On January 11, 1935, she became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific from Honolulu to Oakland, California and later that year was the first to fly solo from Mexico City to Newark (The Family of Amelia Earhart).

For her achievements, Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross-the first ever given to a woman. At the ceremony, Vice President Charles Curtis praised her courage, saying she displayed “heroic courage and skill as a navigator at the risk of her life.” Earhart felt the flight proved that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower” (The Family of Amelia Earhart). She was also awarded with the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, and the Gold Medal from the National Geographic Society from President Herbert Hoover. Her fame grew, and she maintained friendships with many people in high offices, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a member of the National Woman’s Party and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment. In 1935, Earhart became a visiting faculty member at Purdue University as an advisor to aeronautical engineering and a career counselor to women students. 

In 1937, as Earhart neared her 40th birthday, she was ready for a monumental, and final, challenge: she wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. During this attempt to make a circumnavigation 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. After their disappearance, a rescue attempt immediately commenced and became the most extensive air and sea search in naval history. On July 19th, after spending $4 million and scouring 250,000 square miles of ocean, the United States government reluctantly called off the operation. In 1938, a lighthouse was constructed on Howland Island in her memory, and across the United States, streets, schools, and airports are named after Earhart. Her birthplace, Atchison, Kansas, became a virtual shrine to her memory. Amelia Earhart awards and scholarships are given out every year in honor of her accomplishments (The Family of Amelia Earhart).  She has changed the world of women in aviation forever and her courage, vision, and groundbreaking achievements will always be remembered.

Our Amelia Earhart custom collage features a first day Postal Cover signed by Amelia Earhart herself. The collage celebrates Earhart's famous transatlantic journey. The first day cover is dated May 20, 1932 in New York and autographed by Amelia Earhart with full signature in black ink. The First Day Cover honors her flight as “America’s First Lady of the Air, First Woman to Fly the Atlantic Alone.” The postal cover is accompanied by black and white photographs of Earhart and her airplane.

Our first Grosset edition of Amelia Earhart’s 20 Hrs. 40 Min. Our Flight in the Friendship published in 1928 focuses on her first transatlantic flight from New York to Wales adding personal notes and childhood anecdotes to the log entries from the famous flight. Not long after the publication of this autobiography, Earhart made her own solo flight across the Atlantic and used her fame to further the growing feminist movement in the 1930s. This autobiography features 61 illustrations and 314 pages of text. The celebrated pilot also signed the book on a front blank endpaper. Adorned in the original vibrant blue and orange dust jacket, this book is housed in a custom made matching archival clamshell.

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and English and a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. Her life was forever changed when NASA began looking for women astronauts in 1977. Sally Ride was a student at the time and saw an ad in the school newspaper inviting women to apply to the astronaut program. Ride decided to apply for the job and was one of only six women to be picked (The Family of Amelia Earhart).  In 1983 she made a six-day flight aboard the space shuttle Challenger, which earned her the title as the first American woman in space. Her job on the space shuttle was to work the robotic arm, which was used to help put satellites into space (The Family of Amelia Earhart). At the age of 32, she was also the youngest American in space. Sally's historic flight made her a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers and a hero to generations of adventurous young girls. She flew on Challenger again in 1984 and later was the only person to serve on both panels investigating the nation's space shuttle disasters—the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the breakup of the shuttle Columbia on reentry in 2003. 

After retiring from NASA, Dr. Ride became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. She was the co-founder of Sally Ride Science, a company that creates innovative programs and publications for young people interested in space and science. She also came up with the idea for NASA's EarthKAM project. EarthKAM lets middle school students take pictures of Earth using a camera on the International Space Station, which the students then study. In 2003, Ride was added to the Astronaut Hall of Fame in honor of her hard work and dedication to the field. Until her death on July 23, 2012, Ride continued to help students - especially girls -study science and mathematics. She wrote science books and other things for students and teachers and worked with science programs and festivals all around the United States (The Family of Amelia Earhart).

In our The Mystery of Mars book, pioneering astronaut Sally Ride and noted science writer Tam O'Shaughnessy draw on results from then-recent missions to Mars to present a comprehensive overview of Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor. Comparing the two planets’ evolution, geology, and geography, the two authors explain what we know about Mars today and what we can hope to learn about Mars in the future, including whether life does exist somewhere beneath its barren surface. The Mystery of Mars is an engaging and accessible introduction to the Red Planet, and an ideal guide to the coming age of Mars exploration. It is richly illustrated throughout with photographs, diagrams, illustrations, and charts. This second edition book was published by Sally Ride Science in San Diego, in 2006, but was first published in 1999. Sally Ride also signed the front free end page in black felt tip pen. 

Check out these and other books written by amazing women throughout history here on our website, The Great Republic. They are a great way to honor, celebrate and remember women who were breaking barriers and paving the way for women around the world to achieve their goals. Happy International Women’s Day! 


The Family of Amelia Earhart, “Biography - The Official Licensing Website of Amelia Earhart.” Amelia The Family of Amelia Earhart. Accessed 05 March 2022.

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