Scientists find Amelia Earhart remains, still can't explain her celebrity status

Scientists have found bones that they believe with "99% certainty" are those of lost pilot Amelia Earhart.

Richard Jantz, an emeritus anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee, argues that bones discovered on the Pacific island of Nikumaroro in 1940 were likely Earhart’s remains. 

Earhart, who was attempting to fly around the world, disappeared with navigator Fred Noonan on July 2, 1937, during a flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island in the Pacific.

Jantz looked at the pelvis bones and claims he recognizes them as Amelia's.  Whatever.

Amelia Earhart is held up as a celebrity.  But she disappeared because either she didn't fly where she planned to or because she crashed.  Either way, that is not the mark of someone who should be idolized for her piloting skills.

And yet every child is taught in school about how brilliant Amelia Earhart was.

Earhart is so embedded in the popular culture that she even appeared in a Star Trek: Voyager episode where she had some kind of relationship with Captain Janeway.  Earhart blamed space aliens who had no respect for feminist icons, not her own pilot error, for her mishap.

This is all about identity politics: Earhart was the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane.  Not the first person, but the first woman.

Why do we care who the first woman was to do anything?  Do we make note of the "first man" who does something for the first time?  It is true that in the 1960s, we talked about the "first man" to walk on the moon, but that was back when "man" was synonymous with humankind.

In recent times, we never talk about the "firsts" for men.  We don't talk about the first man to invent a search engine, we don't talk about the first man to create the iPhone, and we don't revere the founder of as a male icon.  They're simply recognized as brilliant people.

Reverence for a woman because she was a good pilot is one thing, but reverence for a woman who was a bad pilot is an insult to women.  Holding up such flawed examples sets up the bigotry of low expectations, as if to say this the best women can do.

But we live in an age where all that is not male and not white and not heterosexual is held up as greatness.  Whenever the title of an article has the word "female" or "black" or "Hispanic" or "transgender" or "gay," you can be sure you are about to learn about someone who is great not because he has done something no one else has, but because he has done something many other people have but is being extolled for it because of his physical characteristics or choices in the bedroom.  And that's why you saw Amelia Earhart rather than the Wright brothers on Star Trek: Voyager.

Ed Straker is the senior writer at

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