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One For The Road: Happy Birthday, Amelia Earhart

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 24, 2012 10:40PM

Informal full-length portrait of aviatrix Amelia Earhart standing on top of a piano in a crowded auditorium in Chicago, Illinois. Earhart was the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by airplane, on June 17-18. She visited Chicago on July 19, 1928. Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum.

Today is the 115th birthday of famous aviator Amelia Earhart. Of course you know Amelia was the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and of course you know her plane disappeared in 1937 when she was 39 years old. But did you know she graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1916?

Earhart's father worked with the railroads, so Amelia's family was often moving around. In 1914, Amelia's mother took Amelia and her sister to Chicago to live with family friends and attend high school. I guess the city's science program wasn't quite up to Amelia's standards at the time. From the biography East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart:

The plan had been for Amy and Amelia and Muriel to live somewhere in the Morgan Park district of Chicago near the Shedds and for Amelia and Muriel to go to the Morgan Park high school with the Shedd daughter. When Amelia, however, saw the school, she was appalled by its low standards (she likened the chemistry lab to a kitchen sink) and refused to enroll.

The Chicago public school system operated on the "neighborhood" concept—one went to the high school in the district where one lived. So when Amelia chose Hyde Park High School, in the Hyde Park district, it meant they had to find lodgings there.
Hyde Park was the best public high school in Chicago. Located near the University of Chicago, challenged by the infusion of the bright, motivated children of University of Chicago faculty, Hyde Park excelled in all disciplines and offered extensive curricular activities.

The school is now known as the Hyde Park Career Academy. Despite being in "a school way ahead of its time," Amelia made no friends and participated in no activities. Having enrolled in the fall of her senior year, she never tried, and she spent her evenings caring for her ailing mother.

**This afternoon, Chicagoist Associate Editor Samantha Abernethy spoke about Earhart's legacy today on WBEZ's "Afternoon Shift."