Amelia Earhart to her former flight instructor, Neta Snook, 1929

Whos amelia earhart

Neta Snook with plane, ca. 1920 (GLC07243.006.03)The first decades of the twentieth century brought a golden age of aviation. During this exciting period, many pioneering women defied traditional female roles to become pilots. Amelia Earhart is the most famous of this group of aviatrixes, but Neta Snook, the woman who taught Earhart how to fly, is often overlooked.

Snook had been flying for four years, making a living as a test pilot and pilot, when he met Earhart in December 1920 at California’s Kinner Field, where Snook was a flight instructor. Snook later described Earhart’s first impression of her: “I’ll never forget the day she and her father came to the field. I liked it the minute I saw her.” [1] On January 3, 1921, Earhart took her first flying lesson with snook. Already equipped with an impressive knowledge of aviation and an eagerness to fly, Earhart became Snook’s most famous student.

The two women got closer and discussed not only aviation but also philosophical issues. In her autobiography I Taught Amelia to Fly (1974), Snook recounted a case in which Earhart, who was interested in world religions and cultures, had asked her to read the Koran. snook refused, stating that there was no mention of muhammad in the bible.[2] However, the two women remembered their disagreements fondly rather than bitterly, and nearly a decade after they first flew together, Earhart sent this friendly letter to his former instructor recalling their time together. On January 26, 1929, Earhart wrote: “My dear Neta: It’s been a long time since we flew together in Kinner Field, California. Yes, I remember discussions of the Koran and cold boiled potatoes.”

Blueprint of the Curtiss Jenny airplane (GLC07243.007)

At the time this letter was written, Earhart was the aviation editor at Cosmopolitan, responsible for writing about aviation popularity and trends. She co-founded Ninety-Nine, a pilot women’s organization that is still active today. her career was full of “firsts”; she was the first female passenger on a transatlantic flight, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, and the first woman to be awarded the flying cross. However, what would have been his greatest feat turned out to be his last adventure, as he set out to become the first person to fly around the world at the equator in 1937. Having completed 22,000 miles of the 27,000-mile journey, Earhart and Her navigator, Frederick Noonan, disappeared over the Pacific on July 2, 1937.

At the time of Earhart’s disappearance, Neta Snook Southern had been retired from flying for fifteen years. Her (she had left aviation in 1922 after her marriage to William Southern). The two women never had a chance, as Earhart wrote in 1929, to “speak a few words about the old days.” In 1977, forty years after Earhart’s death. disappearance and fifty-five years after her last flight, southern bass flew again when she was invited to pilot a replica of the spirit of st. by charles lindbergh louis.


Amelia Earhart to Neta Snook Southern, January 6, 1929. (GLC07243.01)

January 26, 1929

my dear net:

it’s been a long time since we flew together in kinner field, california. yes, i remember arguing about the quran and cold boiled potatoes.

flying has meant a lot to me and I am happy to be associated with aviation in any capacity. at some point, our paths may cross again, and we may be able to have a few words about the good old days.

Sincerely, Amelia Earhart

[1] net southern bass. I taught Amelia to fly. (New York: Vantage Press, 1974), 101.

[2] southern bass, 105.

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