On Amelia Earhart Day, Zonta International reflects on the legendary aviator's legacy

This month we are celebrating the spirit and impact of legendary pilot Amelia Earhart, one of Zonta International's most famous former members. Today, we observe Amelia Earhart Day as we commemorate the records she broke 86 years ago and celebrate her contributions to the aerospace industry and her empowerment of women in science.

On 11 January 1935, Earhart embarked on a 2,408-mile trip from Honolulu, Hawaii to Oakland, California. The next day, she became the first person to fly solo to the United States mainland from Hawaii. Since she had flown over the Atlantic Ocean five years earlier, this flight also made her the first person to fly across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Nearly 85 years after Earhart disappeared, women are still outnumbered in the aerospace industry, making up around 25% of the workforce. As part of our efforts to encourage women to excel in traditionally male-dominated fields, Zonta International annually awards women pursuing Ph.D./doctoral degrees in aerospace engineering and space sciences with the Amelia Earhart (AE) Fellowship.

Since it was established in 1938, Zonta has awarded 1,638 AE Fellowships, totaling more than US$10.6 million, to 1,209 women from 73 countries. Click here to see some highlights from the last eight decades.

Zonta International President Sharon Langenbeck, a two-time AE Fellow, knows firsthand the challenges women face in the aerospace field. As a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia in the 1970s, she was one of just 13 women of the 1,500 students in the College of Engineering and the only female student in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

"The Amelia Earhart Fellowship not only helped me to become the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia, but it also set me on the path to a lifetime of working toward gender equality with Zonta," said Langenbeck.

Zonta International invites its districts, clubs and members to honor Earhart and promote the Amelia Earhart Fellowship during Amelia Earhart Month. Please submit your stories about related programs and fundraisers to us at zonta.org/shareyourstory.

11 JANUARY 2021