Although her aviation career lasted just 17 years, Amelia Earhart remains one of the most famous people ever to take to the sky. In addition to being renowned for her many firsts — including being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic and the first person to fly alone from Hawaii to the mainland U.S. — she’s known for her 1937 disappearance and the many theories it spawned. Less well-known but considerably more fun to imagine is the time she took Eleanor Roosevelt on a nighttime joyride from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore on April 20, 1933. The brief flight took place with both of them in their evening wear following a White House dinner party.
“I’d love to do it myself. I make no bones about it,” the First Lady told the Baltimore Sun after the flight. “It does mark an epoch, doesn't it, when a girl in an evening dress and slippers can pilot a plane at night.” In fact, Roosevelt herself had recently received a student pilot license and briefly took over the controls of the twin-engine Curtiss Condor, borrowed from Eastern Air Transport at nearby Hoover Field. Eleanor's brother Hall also ditched the dinner party in favor of the flight that night, as did Thomas Wardwell Doe, the president of Eastern Air Transport, and Eugene Luther Vidal (head of the Bureau of Air Commerce) and his wife Nina Gore, parents of author Gore Vidal. When the plane returned after the short journey, the Secret Service guided everyone back to the White House table for dessert. Needless to say, they all had quite the story to tell at their next dinner party. Roosevelt and Earhart remained friends for the rest of Earhart’s life, sharing an interest in women’s causes, world peace, and of course, flying.
Truman ascended to the presidency following the death of Franklin Roosevelt just a few months into the latter’s unprecedented fourth term in 1945. Though he went without a Vice President for his first four years in office, Truman “indicated that she [Eleanor] would be acceptable to him as a vice-presidential candidate,” according to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library. Eleanor declined the role due to a lack of interest in elective office. Instead, Alben W. Barkley took the reins as Truman’s veep during his second term, and Eleanor served as United States delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, where she helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.