Amelia Earhart and “old Bessie” Vega 5b c. 1935 Amelia Mary Earhart (July 24, 1897 – disappeared 1937) was a noted American aviation pioneer and author. Earhart was the first woman to receive the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross, awarded for becoming the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences and was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots. Earhart joined the faculty of the Purdue University aviation department in 1935 as a visiting faculty member to counsel women on careers and help inspire others with her love for aviation. She was also a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.