The Early Years of Amelia Earhart

By: Mary Zuleger

It was July 24, 1897 when Amelia Earhart was born. She was born in the town of Atchison, Kansas. Three years later her sister Grace Muriel was born, but everyone called her Muriel. They were raised in Kansas City but made many trips back to Atchison were their grandparents had lived.

Amelia’s family moved often, once to Iowa, and then back to Kansas and then to Chicago. In Chicago, Amelia graduated from high school in 1916 and enrolled in the Ogontz School in Rydal, PA. Her sister went to Toronto, Canada.

It was the Christmas of 1917 that Amelia went to visit her sister.

"Amelia, why don’t you come spend Christmas with me."

Amelia was glad to see her sister but she was saddened at seeing all the wounded men in the hospitals. The United States had just entered World War I but Canada had been in the war since 1914.

"Muriel, I can’t stand to see all these poor young soldiers in these hospitals. I just have to do something to help them!"

That is just what Amelia did. She decided to forget her studies and volunteer for the Red Cross. She helped out in a military hospital in Ontario and it was there that she had heard many stories from the men and their adventures in the other countries.

Amelia was fascinated most with the stories of the Royal Flying Corps, the pilots of the war.

"Sir, please tell me more of the Royal Flying Corps."

She always went to talk to Roger J. Anderson, she loved hearing of his adventures of flying and the excitement of the war, and he liked telling her as well.

" I remember the time when me and John went up for the first time. The thrill of it was more than words can explain. To know you are helping your country out and doing what you love is amazing. But, it isn’t something you should think about doing, Miss Amelia! Flying is something I love, but it is dangerous, I have seen a lot of men shot down and killed or injured during this war. It’s a miracle I’m still here. Miss Amelia, I would be careful if I were you! A woman pilot is just ridiculous!"

Amelia always listened intently to Mr. Anderson’s words, but she was still intrigued with the thought of flying, even if Mr. Anderson didn’t think it was a good idea for her.

Later that year she got sick herself with pneumonia, she spent the next year with her sister, who moved to Massachusetts. Muriel was studying at Smith College, and Amelia had no clear direction of where to go, and this bothered her.

"Muriel, I’ve been here with you for almost a year now trying to beat this pneumonia. I’ve had a lot of time to think, you know and I just don’t know what I should do with my life. I enjoy poetry, and the banjo, hiking and mechanics, but what can I do with my life?"

"Amelia, I think you should go back to school, take some classes and see what happens. Maybe you could take some courses in medicine, after all you did work in the military hospital for quite sometime, and if I remember correctly you enjoyed that immensely!"

Amelia decided to take her sister’s advice and she enrolled at Columbia University and took a course in medicine as well as French poetry.

A year later she thought it was time to go out to California to visit her parents. While there her father had introduced her to pilot Frank Hawks. Amelia remembered all the stories that her friend Mr. Anderson had told her about the Royal Flying Corps back in Ontario. She remembered being thrilled about all of his stories so she was very excited to meet this pilot.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Hawks. I’m so honored to meet you!"

"Please, call me Frank. Your father tells me that you are interested in flying. Would you like to take a ride with me?"

"Oh, that would be wonderful! Thank you so much!"

It was this flight that changed Amelia Earhart’s life. She never went back to college. She knew just what she wanted to do with her life. She wanted to fly!

This story was based on facts from the book, Lifetimes: Amelia Earhart. However, the story itself is of my own creation. It is for upper elementary grades.


  1. When was Amelia Earhart born?
  2. With what organization did Amelia Earhart volunteer during World War I?
  3. Who were the pilots that she loved hearing about during the war? (The name of the whole group)
  4. Who was the man that changed Amelia Earhart’s life?
  5. Who are the people in your life that you look up to and think you might want to be like when you get older?


  1. July 24, 1897
  2. The Red Cross
  3. The Royal Flying Corps
  4. Franks Hawks
  5. Answers will vary.


  1. Birth
    1. Atchison, KS
    2. Sister (Grace) Muriel
    3. Moving from state to state
  2. Graduation
    1. Ogontz School in Rydal, PA
    2. Visits Muriel
  3. War
    1. Volunteers at Red Cross
    2. Talks with Mr. Anderson
      1. Royal Flying Corps
      2. Doesn’t advise her to fly
    3. Sick with pneumonia
      1. Stays with sister in MA
      2. Unsure of what to do with life.
  4. The Change
    1. Columbia University
    2. Visits parents in CA
    3. Meets Frank Hawks
      1. Flies with him
      2. Drops out of college
      3. Wants to be a pilot

Props: Pictures of Amelia Earhart, Red Cross nurses hat or other wear, pictures of war planes and other planes which Amelia Earhart flown.