Amelia Earhart's Family Help To Remind Us That Her Legacy Matters More Than Her Ending
If your passion for history has been suddenly reignited following the circulation of a photo that may suggest that Ameila Earhart survived her plane crash, then you no doubt want to know everything you can about her — including what Earhart's family is doing today. With the 80th anniversary of the aviator's disappearance this year, her legacy is on everyone's minds, as is the question of how her loved ones might feel today about the decades-long mystery surrounding her disappearance.
Though Earhart herself didn't have any children, her sister had two; a son by the name of David (now sadly deceased), and a daughter called Amy Kleppner. Over the years, Kleppner has provided several interviews that offer an intimate glimpse at who Earhart was, and what she, as the niece of the great woman, thinks happened to her aunt on July 2 1937.
According to the New York Times in 1998, Kleppner revealed her theory about what happened to Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan, and said:
I've read everything written and reported about my aunt, and I'm convinced that she and Fred simply ran out of gas within 100 miles of their destination, Howland Island. No one has produced credible evidence that their plane crashed on any of the Phoenix Islands, or that they died of starvation, or that they were captured, tortured and killed by the Japanese on Saipan, or any of the other theories. The simplest explanation is the most likely.
It seems as though Kleppner has yet to comment on the potentially credible evidence regarding Earhart's alleged survival, as investigated in the new History Channel special Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, which could certainly change her opinion on those theories. In that documentary, in which the now viral photo is thoroughly investigated, experts conclude that Earhart may have crashed her plane in Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands, and that she and Noonan were then held captive by Japanese soldiers.
However a recent interview with Kleppner indicates that she may be more concerned with celebrating her iconic aunt's achievements and legacy, than demystifying her ending. In the recent UKTV documentary Amelia - A Tale of Two Sisters, Kleppner provided a touching tribute to both her mom and her aunt, in which she celebrated the Earhart sisters' rebellion against gender norms. She said:
They didn't do a lot of the usual little girl activities. They were both tomboys and liked sports, they played baseball, and at one point asked for a football for Christmas.
Kleppner further elaborated in the documentary on just how much of a struggle it was for Earhart to get into aviation as a woman, saying, "women weren't allowed do that." Kleppner explained that men had far easier access to the sort of training that allowed them to "get jobs as commercial pilots," which emphasizes how truly spectacular it was that Earhart defied expectations to became one of the most famous pilots in history.
As the only living family member of Earhart's family still talking about the great pioneer, Kleppner has continued to keep her aunt's powerful memory alive. Though it's satisfying to read about the possibility that we now have answers regarding the pilot's tragic and mysterious disappearance 80 years ago, Kleppner's intimate descriptions of her aunt perhaps paint a more satisfying picture — one that is far less concerned with how Earhart disappeared, than it is with just how groundbreaking, fearless, and important a woman she truly was.
Wanting to know what happened is certainly understandable, but it's Earhart's legacy, of inspiring women to break down gender walls and to follow their dreams, whatever the cost, that's most important. Her personality, drive, and influence deserve to be remembered.