'I Had to Fly' — 12 Photos of Amelia Earhart You Need to See

While a great deal of mystery surrounds Amelia Earhart's disappearance, her contributions to aviation and women's rights have inspired people for upwards of 80 years

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The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas. In 1920, she attended an air show in Long Beach, California, and took a 10-minute plane ride that changed her life forever.

"As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly," she wrote.

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Bettmann Archive/Getty

In 1928, she was invited to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and became an international celebrity. She was listed as a co-pilot, but ultimately was not allowed to fly.

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Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty

She set seven women's speed and distance aviation records between 1930 and 1935. In May 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across in the Atlantic, and on Jan. 11, 1935, she flew from Honolulu to Oakland, making her the first person to fly solo over the Pacific.

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National Archives/HISTORY

Dubbed "Lady Lindy" (a nod to fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh), Earhart promoted aviation and helped found the Ninety-Nines, an organization dedicated to female aviators.

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New York Times Co./Getty

Earhart wed publisher George Palmer Putnam on Feb. 7, 1931. He reportedly proposed to her six times before she agreed to marry him.

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Bettmann Archive/Getty

She famouly sent him a letter detailing "some things which should be writ before we are married."

"I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly," Earhart wrote, adding that her career was a top priority.

"Please let us not interfere with the others' work or play."

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As she approached her 40th birthday in 1937, Earhart famously said, "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system." She wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world.

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AP

After a botched attempt in March that severely damaged her plane, a determined Earhart had the twin engine Lockheed Electra rebuilt.

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Topical Press Agency/Getty

On June 1, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan left Miami, Florida, an around-the-world flight.

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NY Daily News Archive/Getty

They disappeared on July 2 after a stop in Lae, New Guinea, with only 7,000 miles of the trip left.

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There were radio messages that they were running low on fuel. Contact was lost, and the plane never made it to its destination.

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While a great deal of mystery surrounds her disappearance, her contributions to aviation and women's rights have inspired people for more than 80 years.

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