Amelia Earhart speaks at Seattle's Civic Auditorium under sponsorship of the Woman's Century Club on February 3, 1933.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 1/27/2012
  • Essay 10018
See Additional Media
On February 3, 1933, world-famous aviator Amelia Earhart (1897-missing 1937, declared dead 1939) visits Seattle and delivers two lectures at the Civic Auditorium. Earhart's visit is sponsored by the Woman's Century Club, and is part of her  lecture tour supporting sales of her second autobiographical book. It has been less than nine months since Earhart's historic flight on May 20, 1932, made her the first woman -- and second person -- to fly solo across the Atlantic ocean..

In Support of Women

The visit was at least Amelia Earhart's second to Seattle since becoming a public figure, but appears to have been the only time she presented public lectures.  She flew from San Francisco to Seattle on July 14, 1930, for a two-day visit with fellow members of the Zonta International Club, an organization founded in 1919 to advance the status of women. Zonta members were required to be employed at least 50 percent of the time in an executive or decision-making capacity in a recognized business or profession. Earhart was a member of the New York City chapter.  Zonta International launched the Amelia Earhart Fellowships program in 1938.

During her 1930 visit, Earhart also visited fellow aviation pioneer William Boeing (1881-1956) and inspected the Boeing Aircraft Factory. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Earhart spoke out in favor of equal education for girls and boys. Unmarried at the time, Earhart told the paper that she believed women were perfectly capable of combining work with raising families: "Nearly half of the women aviators I know are married.  They manage to coordinate their family life and business life very well.  Some of them even have sweet little children" (July 15, 1930).

A Living Legend

Amelia Earhart saw her first airplane at age 11, at the Iowa State Fair in 1908.  (The first demonstration of airplane flight in Seattle occurred on March 11, 1910.)  She learned to fly in the early 1920s, and was granted a flying certificate by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) on May 16, 1923. Founded in 1905, the federation's purpose is to catalog and publicize record-setting achievements in the air. This certificate was necessary in order to make attempts on flight records. 

In 1928, Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic (traveling as a passenger).  In 1932, she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic solo -- the only other person to do so before her was Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974). She set numerous aviation records and received many honors, becoming one of the most widely admired women of her era (and eventually, in history). Her husband, George Palmer Putnam (1887-1950), whom she married in 1931, widely publicized her exploits and achievements, arranged her lecture tours, and ensured Earhart's continued presence in the public eye.  Beginning in 1934, Earhart also designed a line of women's active-wear clothing.

Amelia Approaches

Amelia Earhart's 1933 visit to Seattle was part of a lecture tour undertaken in to support sales of her second book, The Fun Of It, published in 1932.  Earhart's first book, 20 Hrs. 40 Min., recounted her 1928 Atlantic crossing. The Woman's Century Club, a Seattle organization founded in 1891 by leading suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947), sponsored her two-lecture visit and hosted a reception at their clubhouse at 807 East Roy Street.  (The clubhouse is now [2012] the Harvard Exit movie theater, although the Woman's Century Club continues to hold meetings there.)

Early newspaper coverage of Earhart's visit indicated that she would again be flying to Seattle, and that officials of the National Aeronautical Association and Women's Aeronautical Association would be on hand to greet her at Boeing Field. "A number of air-minded folks are planning to fly to Seattle from outlying portions of the state to hear Miss Earhart speak," reported The Seattle Star (January 30, 1933).  One of the air-minded was Dora Davis Skinner (b. 1885) of Yakima, who planned to pilot her own plane and escort Earhart from Portland to Seattle. Like Earhart, Dora Skinner was a member of the Ninety-Nines, an organization open to any woman who had her pilot's license. The organization had been founded in 1929, and Earhart served as president.

Tickets to the lectures (one at 2:20 and one at 8:15) were 25-cents for children and 40-cents for adults, and were available at Sherman, Clay and Co. music store and at Rhodes Department Store. Frederick & Nelson Book Shop, meanwhile, was taking advance orders for The Fun Of It. The book retailed for $2.50, and books ordered in advance were promised to contain Earhart's signature.

Planned Celebrations

Girl Scout troops from throughout Seattle planned to attend Earhart's matinee with their troop leaders. Many troops planned dinner parties to follow the lecture. The Girl Scouts -- and any other school-aged children attending Earhart's talk -- enjoyed early dismissal and were ferried to the Civic Auditorium on special streetcars. Seattle Public Schools superintendent Worth McClure (1912-1965) introduced Earhart at the matinee. This included between 75 and 100 Camp Fire Girls, who singled Earhart out as Seattle's Most Distinguished Visitor of the Year.

Members of the Olympia, Everett, Spokane, Tacoma, and Seattle Zonta Club chapters organized a dinner at the Tavern Room at the Olympic Hotel, then planned to attend the evening lecture together. Earhart dined with them as their honored guest. Several Zonta members were part of the receiving line at the Woman's Century Club reception after the aviator's evening lecture.

The Seattle Branch of the Women's Aeronautic Association, meanwhile, planned to meet informally at the Washington Athletic Club at 7:00, then proceed together to Earhart's evening lecture.

Amelia Arrives

Weather conditions prevented Earhart from flying to Seattle. She arrived by train at King Street Station at 8 a.m. on February 3, 1933. Seattle Mayor John Dore (1881-1938) led the welcome delegation, which included representatives of Seattle's three daily newspapers. The party drove from the train station past  Boeing Field, then on to Morningside, a public tuberculosis sanitarium for King County residents living outside Seattle city limits, where Earhart greeted the patients. 

A reporter for The Seattle Star, along for the ride, took the opportunity to report on the flyer's fingernails: "Here's a tip for Seattle girls. Amelia Earhart, whom England said had the most beautiful hands in the world, does not use rose-colored nail polish. Her nails are short and round."  The reporter also noted Earhart's "beautiful fur coat, very feminine with a corsage of a single orchid. Amelia wore no lipstick, no rouge, no mascara. Her hair was almost hidden under a tailored brown felt hat" (February 3, 1933).

Lectures and Reception

Earhart's lectures, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, attracted thousands of men, women, and children.  She was, the paper reported, "a young woman with a message -- on a subject of even more interest than her beloved aeronautics.  She thinks that wives should be gainfully employed, just as their husbands are -- and that, in turn, husbands should contribute their share to the bringing up of children" (February 4, 1933).  Although no Seattle paper reviewed Earhart's lectures, presumably she mainly recounted the exciting solo flight and other events covered in her book The Fun Of It.

The Woman's Century Club reception was a gala occasion. Washington Governor Clarence Martin (1884-1955) and his wife Margaret, Lt. Governor Victor Meyers (1897-1991) and his wife Goldie, Seattle Mayor John Dore and his wife Mary Ellen, University of Washington president M. Lyle Spencer and his wife Helen, Woman's Century Club president Evadna Marks and her husband Louis, and former Seattle mayor Bertha Landes (1868-1943), who was also a former president of the Woman's Century Club, joined Earhart in the receiving line, along with other dignitaries from across the state.  Eight of the club's past presidents had the honor of pouring tea and coffee. The Woman's Century Club Juniors (mainly daughters and granddaughters of members) assisted with serving.

A large social committee of club members organized the event, which was held in the club's ballroom.  The Seattle Star enumerated the "patrons and patronesses" whose generosity supported the event: "Mr. and Mrs. Louis Marks, Mr. and Mrs. F. Ray Gilkerseon, Mr. and Mrs. R. D. Merrill, Mr. and Mrs. A. H. Swensson, Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Horton, Mr. and Mrs. Blake D. Mills, Mr. and Mrs. M. F. Harrah, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Broderick, Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Green, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Kerr, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Graham, Mr. and Mrs. Cassius E. Gates, and Mr. and Mrs. James E. Pollard" ("Aviatrice To Be Honored ...").  The list included many of Seattle's social and business luminaries.

Once the reception was concluded, Earhart was whisked onto a vessel headed for Vancouver, B.C. The boat was held until midnight under special arrangement in order to accommodate Earhart's Seattle commitments and still get her to Vancouver for a scheduled lecture the following day.

Based on newspaper reportage, this appears to have been Amelia Earhart's final visit to Seattle. While attempting to circumnavigate the earth at the equator with navigator Fred Noonan (1893-missing 1937, declared dead 1938), she made her last radio contact on July 3, 1937.  Earhart's disappearance garnered worldwide attention and became an enduring mystery. The superior court of Los Angeles declared Amelia Earhart legally dead on January 5, 1939.

Sources: Amelia Earhart, The Fun Of It (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1932); Mary S. Lovell, The Sound of Wings (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989); Susan War, Still Missing (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993); "To Greet Flier," The Seattle Star, January 30, 1933, p. 5; "Zonta Club To Attend Amelia Earhart Lecture," Ibid., January 21, 1933, p. 7; "Aviatrice To Be Honored Guest," Ibid., February 3, 1933, p. 5; "Miss Earhart To Be Guest of Zontians," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 3, 1933, p. 6; "Woman Aviator To Be Honored," Ibid., February 2, 1933, p. 9; "Miss Earhart Arrives Today," Ibid., February 3, 1933, p. 3; "Amelia Earhart a Tomboy? Not at All, Writer Finds," Ibid., February 3, 1933, p. 1; "Assisting At Reception Tonight," Ibid., February 3, 1933, p. 9; "Amelia Earhart Attends Affairs," Ibid., February 4, 1933, p. 4; "Miss Earhart Urges Work For Wives," Ibid., February 4, 1933, p. 9; "Amelia Earhart To Receive Gala Greeting Here," The Seattle Times., January 22, 1933, p. 5; "Girls To Honor Amelia Earhart," Ibid., January 25, 1933, p. 20; "Aviatrices To Be at Earhart Talk in Body," Ibid., January 27, 1933, p. 18; "Miss Earhart to Bring Message to Seattle Man," Ibid., January 27, 1933, p. 9; "Amelia Earhart To Be Honored At Reception," Ibid., January 29, 1933, p. 10; "Amelia Earhart To Have Escort Of Army Planes," Ibid., January 29, 1933, p. 16; "Seattle Girls Will Listen To Aviatrice," Ibid., January 29, 1933, p. 22; "Mrs. Skinner To Greet Miss Earhart In Oregon," Ibid., January 30, 1933, p. 10; "Amelia Earhart To Be Greeted By Zonta Club," Ibid., January 31, 1933, p. 12; "Amelia Earhart Will Autograph Books," Ibid., January 31, 1933, p. 7; "Reception For Miss Earhart Friday Night," Ibid., February 1, 1933, p. 10; "Zonta Members Plan Honor For Amelia Earhart," Ibid., February 3, 1933, p. 14; "Fame Often Is Tiring, Says Amelia Earhart," Ibid., February 3, 1933, p. 1; "Inbred Timidity Handicap To Women, Says Amelia Earhart," Ibid., July 15, 1930, p. 14; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Charles Hamilton pilots the first airplane in Washington on March 11, 1910" (by Walt Crowley), (accessed January 26, 2012); Mary Hall, "Amelia Earhart's Fashion Line: Found At Last," Huffington Post, November 2, 2009 (; "History," FAI website accessed January 26, 2012 (; "Zonta International History," Zonta International website accessed January 26, 2010 (

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You