Amelia Earhart: Aviation Adventures at WU

In honor of Amelia Earhart’s birthday (July 24) University Archives takes a look back at the famous flyer’s only campus visit:

Tuesday evening, October 29, 1935, Earhart spoke as part of the W.U. Association’s yearly lecture series. (more about the Association below)

The 12 part lecture series was supported by $4.00 yearly subscriptions by members, who then were provided two tickets to each lecture.  The 1935-36 program informed subscribers:

To explain to any audience who Miss Earhart is or what she has done would be discourteous to her and a slur upon the alertness of the average American. Let it only be said that she is as gracious as she is great and tells her story with dramatic interest and whimsical humor.



Ticket for Earhart’s lecture on campus, 1935. (From the WU Association Collection)

While other lectures that year were held at the Soldan High School Auditorium, the program announcement explained that Earhart was “scheduled for the Washington University Field House, Big Bend and Forsythe, since it will be Miss Earhart’s first appearance in Saint Louis and the only one she will make this season.”  Additional tickets to her lecture were sold for fifty cents each.

Student Life covered the event, proclaiming:

Amelia Earhart Delivers W. U. Association Lecture – Famous Aviatrix Has Been Mistaken for Others, Including Col. Lindbergh’s Mother – Makes Her Flights “Only Because She Wants To”


“I make my flights because I desire to,” explained Miss Earhart, “and lay no claim to scientific virtue, except to make the future of aviation more secure.”   Read the entire November 1, 1935 article here.



Other speakers at the 1935-36 series included: Lyman Beecher Stowe, “Mark Twain – Self Appointed Instructor of the Public;” Grant Wood, painter of American Gothic, on “Regional Art;” and Roy Chapman Andrews, who discussed  a recent discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert.


W.U. Association

Founded in 1898, the Association’s constitution declared:  “The object of this Association shall be to give the citizens of St. Louis a better knowledge and appreciation of the work done in the undergraduate and professional departments of the University, and to increase their interest in the welfare of the University; to establish closer relations with the secondary schools of the West; and to aid the Board of Directors and the various faculties in carrying on the work for which the University was established.”

The lecture series programs also reminded subscribers:

While the Association is careful in the selection of its speakers, it gives them the privilege of presenting their own viewpoint. The Association does not feel bound to support all the views expressed from its platform but feels it to be its duty to present varying and divergent opinions.


Programs, invitations, and minutes from the early years of this organization are preserved at University Archives.

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.