A Letter from Amelia Earhart
Earlier this year, going through a scrapbook that had been donated to Washington State Historical Society's Special Collections, our white-gloved collections staff came across a hand-typed letter from the world famous pilot Amelia Earhart. The letter was written to Alma Heflin of Spokane, Washington, and dated March 16, 1936.
Heflin was also a pilot and had sent a letter to Earhart on March 7. In her return correspondence, Earhart empathized with Heflin, stating "You girls in Seattle are having to battle what women face everywhere -- a condescending attitude on the part of the male, inescapable and suffocating." Earhart goes on to encourage Heflin: "I think women should fly and fly and fly as much as they can afford. Only deeds count ..." She describes the difficulty that women face in regard to lack of means to access flying time and training. She writes about raising money to rent planes and fund advanced courses.
Heflin received her pilot license in 1937 and then went to work for Piper Aviation in Pennsylvania, in sales and was promoted to publicity director. In 1938, she became the first woman to lead the annual light plane cavalcade to Florida, and in 1941 she became the first female test pilot for a commercial aircraft company. During World War II she flew as a bush pilot in Alaska and tested planes for the US Army's noncombat "Grasshopper" Squadron. She later went on to become a teacher and child psychologist.
Heflin cherished her letter from Earhart and it stayed tucked into her scrapbook. Heflin and Earhart's correspondence is a wonderful story of mentorship and personal connection, and offers insight into women breaking into nontraditional fields in the 1930s.
Pictured above, Earhart's letter; and at right, Alma Heflin (in plaid) with an unidentified woman (possibly her mother).