Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Amelia Earhart: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon

Amelia Earhart: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon

Kathleen C. Winters

St. Martin's Press



When Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific in 1937, she was at the height of her fame. Fascination with Earhart remains just as strong today, as her mysterious disappearance continues to inspire speculation. In this nuanced and often surprising biography, acclaimed aviation historian Kathleen C. Winters moves beyond the caricature of the spunky, precocious pilot to offer a more complex portrait. Drawing on a wealth of contemporary accounts, airline records, and other original research, this book reveals a flawed heroine who was frequently reckless and lacked basic navigation skills, but who was also a canny manipulator of mass media. Winters details how Earhart and her husband, publisher George Putnam, worked to establish her as an international icon, even as other spectacular pilots went unnoticed. Sympathetic yet unsentimental, this biography helps us to see Amelia Earhart with fresh eyes.


Praise for Amelia Earhart: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon

“In this insightful biography, Winters looks at Earhart's achievements and, perhaps more significantly, the influence of her husband, George Palmer Putnam, who promoted her tirelessly and ‘catapulted her to fame' by helping with fundraising and setting up book deals and speaking engagements. She avoids romanticizing Earhart and points out her personal short-comings, such as an occasional reluctance to prepare properly for excursions. But Winters still believes equipment failure was just as responsible for Earhart's ill-fated final flight in 1937 as the pilot's insufficiencies. In so doing, she paints a fair picture of the famous woman aviator that so successfully captured the American imagination.” —Publishers Weekly

“In this biography…Kathleen C. Winters chooses to disregard the afterlife. She focuses on Earhart's surprising lack of technical skill and flight experience, drawing on her own experience as a pilot, and on contemporary opinion. Fascinating reading.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“Succinctly lays out the facts of Amelia Earhart's remarkable story from 'a pilot's perspective' . . . The author's knowledge of aviation history renders this a proficient chronicle of women in flight.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Winters follows her biography Anne Morrow Lindbergh (2006) with a refreshing look at Earhart. Resisting tabloid tales, Winters focuses on responsible accounts and Earhart's own writings to show how public demands and family pressures induced the aviatrix to fly beyond her capabilities. With erudite analysis of everything from Earhart's flying to her marriage and longtime financial support of her parents and sister, Winters proves there is still much to learn about this American icon.” —Booklist

“In this latest installment of Earhart historiography, Winters (Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air) explores her subject's skills as an aviator and questions her character, thus providing another corrective to earlier Earhart hagiographies and popular perceptions. Earhart's accomplishments have been scrutinized for some time, and Winters's well-written and thoroughly researched study should serve as a final corrective. Recommended both as a character study and a technical study to general readers and specialists.” —Library Journal

“The late aviation historian Winters draws on a variety of new sources, including Earhart's own writings, to tell with an absorbing style the amazing story of a flawed American heroine. Winters's ‘back story' of her subject's growth and achievements, problems, and ultimate failure focuses on the human development of an international celebrity who chose to fly beyond her capabilities, rather than conjecturing on Earhart's fate after the crash. Highly recommended.” —CHOICE

“Winters vividly captures what life was like for Earhart and her fellow women pilots in the 1920s and early '30s, when technology was developing and flying was dangerous.” —St. Paul Pioneer-Press

“Informative and insightful.” —Asbury Park Press

“Unsparing as Winters is with her subject's many shortcomings, her admiration for her intrepid spirit comes shining through.” —Living Scotsman

“Kathleen Winters's book is full of details I had never known about Amelia Earhart, which put her achievements and ultimate tragedy in a surprising new perspective. The author's experience as a pilot herself comes through in every part of the book. Anyone interested in flying or women who defy stereotypes will enjoy this book; but it also is a study in the timeless American traditions of marketing and PR.” —James Fallows, Atlantic Monthly, author of Free Flight

“Kathleen C. Winters promises to dig through the myths and heroic dross to look at Amelia Earhart from ‘a pilot's perspective.' This she does with masterly story-telling precision, revealing the sad truth that the famous aviatrix was all too often (usually owing to conflicting demands) ill-prepared to undertake her many attempted record flights. The result is a sober and absorbing account of the world's most iconic, yet tragic female pilot.” —Larry E. Tise, author of Conquering the Sky and the Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History, East Carolina University

“In Amelia Earhart: The Turbulent Life of an American Icon, pilot and biographer Kathleen C. Winters draws upon new sources to give us a welcome and long overdue account of Earhart's tumultuous career, as well as the careful fashioning of her public image. A book with no small share of surprises, and an important contribution to the history of women and aviation.” —David Toomey, author of Stormchasers and co-author of Amelia Earhart's Daughters

“If you're only going to read one Amelia biography, make it this one. It's fast moving, puts all the facts in the context of the times and doesn't try to prove a point. It's hard to put down.” —Budd Davisson, Editor-in-Chief, Flight Journal magazine

“A perfectly calibrated tribute to an early heroine of the air.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Both pointed and modest.” —The New York Times Book Review on Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Beautifully written.” —Booklist on Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Kathleen C. Winters

Kathleen C. Winters was an aviation historian, licensed pilot, and author of the critically acclaimed Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air. A resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, she passed away in August of 2010.

Kathleen C. Winters

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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