I believe flyers should be permitted the same privileges as writers or actresses
Two letters from Amelia Earhart
Pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart was fiercely independent and wanted nothing to block her life’s path, marriage included. On the morning of her wedding on 7th February 1931, Earhart wrote the following letter to her fiancé and publicist, George Putnam, and reiterated her “reluctance to marry.” He later called it “brutal in its frankness but beautiful in its honesty.”
There are some things which should be writ before we are married — things we have talked over before — most of them.
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but have no heart to look ahead.
On our life together 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. If we can be honest I think the difficulties which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or in passing) in anyone else.
Please let us not interfere with the others’ work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinements of even an attractive cage.
I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.
I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.
A year later, on 20th May 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean following a 14 hour, 56 minute flight from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B. Such a huge achievement resulted in coverage in newspapers around the globe, including the New York Times; however, she bristled at headlines such as this, in that very paper on 22nd May:
MRS. PUTNAM FLIES ATLANTIC TO IRELAND IN RECORD TIME
She wrote this next letter to the publisher of the New York Times the next month.
Dear Mr. Sulzberger:
May I make a request of the Times through you? Despite the mild expression of my wishes, and those of G.P.P., I am constantly referred to as “Mrs. Putnam” when the Times mentions me in its columns.
I admit I have no principle to uphold in asking that I be called by my professional name in print. However, it is for many reasons more convenient for both of us to be simply “Amelia Earhart”. After all (here may be a principle) I believe flyers should be permitted the same privileges as writers or actresses.
I have written Mrs. Sulzberger to thank her for sending me the lovely orchids, and here are my thanks to you. It was pleasant, indeed, to be so remembered.
Arthur Hays Sulzberger, Esq.
The New York Times
New York, N. Y.
The New York Times obliged: from that day she was no longer Mrs. Putnam in its pages. And her marriage to Putnam was happy but brief. Tragically, in 1937, Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Her body has never been found.
Amelia Earhart, letter to George Palmer Putnam (February 7, 1931). Amelia Earhart is a trademark of Amy Kleppner, as heir to the Estate of Muriel Morrissey, used with permission from CMG Worldwide.