Women of Valor: Amelia and Esther


Inspiration is a funny thing. We look at people we know, and people we don't know, people living and people who have passed on, and we let something in them touch us, push us, move us. I like to think that inspiration multiplies. Someone inspires you, and in turn you inspire someone else, and our society is lifted onward and upward.

So for this post I'm doing two women of valor, one who has passed on and one who still actively inspires. Meet Amelia Earhart and Esther Mbabazi.

Amelia Esther

A few months ago one of my amazing friends, Ruth Deal, suggested I include Amelia Earhart in my Women of Valor project. Of course I thought Amelia was a perfect fit for the project.

Here's what Ruth had to say about her: "Amelia Earhart has been my inspiration since the 2nd grade. I've always been inspired by her sense of adventure and desire to be be free no matter the cost. She accepted change. And married it. [My first daughter] Selah's middle name is Amelia mainly because of how much this women whom I've never met has spoken into my life."

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Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic ocean. Her first flight was as a passenger, but it wasn't enough and a few years later she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and ultimately disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe. Those are the facts that everyone knows about Amelia, but of course she was much more than just an aviator.

Ms. Earhart was a best selling author, a teacher and a supporter of women's rights in the days when women had very few. And Amelia was also a dreamer. I know, that's a pretty big claim to make. But here's why I say it. As a child, Amelia kept a book of newspaper clippings. She cut out every article about women who inspired her, women who were excelling in fields dominated by men. And when she discovered aviation, the field she would flourish in, she did everything in her power to pursue her dream.

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As I was working on Amelia's portrait, I happened across the story of another amazing woman pilot - Esther Mbabazi.

Last year Esther became Rwanda's first female pilot at the age of 24, after dreaming of flying for 20 years. When she was 4 she watched planes flying overhead and dreamed of being that mysterious pilot, and after graduating high school she packed up and bought a one way ticket to pilot school.

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When I heard Esther's story, I couldn't help comparing her to Amelia. Both women were determined to do something new. Amelia wasn't just the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, she was one of the first humans to do it. Esther isn't just the first Rwandan woman to fly a plane, she's also among the first Rwandan pilots, male and female. And now Esther isn't the only woman flying in Rwanda. She helped make a way for others to follow their dreams.

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Inspiration spreads. Somehow when we pursue our dreams, we can open up doors for others to chase theirs. When we celebrate the success of others, it lifts all of us up. So who inspires you? Let me know, I just might paint them!

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Oh, and those little birds? They are Northern Wheatears. During their migration they fly around the world.

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