Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for Anne Morrow Lindbergh - Pioneer Women in Aviation: A-Z Challenge

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001)
Perhaps, most know Anne Morrow Lindbergh as the pretty wife of Charles Lindbergh, the famous young pilot who had soloed across the North Atlantic Ocean in 1927. 

As a young mother, I first discovered her as the talented author of Gift from the Sea, a beautiful poetic reflection on life and the American woman. Still, it's hard to separate this couple, and why would I? They were beautiful people, married in the 1920s, and one of the the nation's star couples during the Great Depression. 

When news broke in 1932 that the Lindbergh's firstborn son Charles, Jr., had been kidnapped, the nation fell into deep shock. Someone had broken into the Lindbergh's home and taken the baby from his crib. Despite a ransom note, his partly decomposed body was found two months later. The nation mourned. Then came the repeated intrusion into the couple's privacy (speculations concerning the baby's murder), and later, accusations that Charles had sided politically with the Nazis. Somewhere in all this political bantering and public hearsay and snooping, Anne the writer got lost, and for a time, Anne the aviator, but her contributions to both aviation and literature may come as a surprise. 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the second of four children, was born in Englewood, New Jersey to well educated parents. Her mother, a poet and teacher, had inspired Anne's lifelong love of reading and writing. Her father, Dwight W. Morrow, a partner with J.P. Morgan & Co, served as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico for three years and then as U.S. Senator (NJ). 

While visiting Mexico City, Anne was introduced to the then famous Charles Lindbergh. She was 21 and thrilled beyond belief. She wrote in her diary: “It was breath-taking. I could not speak. What kind of boy is this?” After Charles took her up in his plane, she wrote again: “I will not be happy until it happens again.” After another encounter, she wrote: “The idea of this dear, direct, straight boy how it has swept out of sight all the other men I have known. All my life, in fact my world, my little embroidery beribboned world is smashed. I must have been walking with my head down looking at puddles for twenty years!” Anne attended Smith College and graduated in 1928 with awards for her writing. They married in 1929.


At their wedding, Charles picked and gave Anne 
a bouquet of larkspur and columbine to carry.

 Charles taught Anne how to fly, and in 1930, she became the first American woman to receive a first class glider pilot's license. It was the beginning of a life of exploration and travel in their younger years as pilots, that despite the numerous obstacles they later faced privately and publicly, gave Anne an independence and a confidence she had never before experienced . . . and the basis of many of her writings.

She wrote:  ''The sheer fact of finding myself loved was unbelievable and changed my world, my feelings about life and myself. I was given confidence, strength and almost a new character. The man I was to marry believed in me and what I could do, and consequently I found I could do more than I realized, even in that mysterious outer world that fascinated me but seemed unattainable. He opened the door to 'real life,' and though it frightened me, it also beckoned. I had to go." (excerpt: Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1973).

  After their honeymoon, Charles and Anne:

--Helped launch the Trans-continental Air Transport's first combined air-rail service between Los Angeles and New York
 --Landed at Pueblo Indian ruins in Arizona and took pictures (first visit by whites), demonstrating an airplane's usefulness in archaeological work.
--1930, Helped launch Madduz Line's Ford trimotor flight between San Diego and LA
--1930, flew west to east in new Lockheed Sirius and set new transcontinental record. As navigator, Anne set a new woman's record for coast-to-coast flight.   

In 1930, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was born. As became the couple's tradition following every birth (they would have six), Charles began planning an exploratory survey flight that would take them along the Arctic Circle from New York to Tokyo in search of the shortest route to East Asia. In preparation, Anne learned Morse code and how to operate the plane's radio, which would be her job as co-pilot seated behind Charles. Their new Lockheed Model 8 Sirius, a single-engine propeller-driven monoplane, had been specially built by Lockheed engineers and retrofitted as a float plane. 

On survey trip to Arctic. The two pilots dressed for warmth.
1931. Anne and Charles in their Lockheed Model 8 Sirius

Embarking in July (1931), one thrill followed after another in the exciting trip. The views were incredible as they traveled east lit by the Midnight Sun (sun is visible at night in summer at the poles, a phenomenon I also experienced in Norway). Stops along the way had their surprises as well. Anne wrote of one stop in Canada: “When I jumped out, the three or four Eskimos drew back. Then two little Eskimo boys came up shyly and followed me about. Their bright eyes shone under their caps as they searched my face and costume curiously. ''You see,'' explained one of the traders, ''you're the first white woman they've ever seen. There's never been one here before.'' (excerpt: North to the Orient, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1935)

They journeyed onward, crossing the Bering Sea to Siberia, fighting bad weather en route but landed safely in Japan where they received a royal welcome. Reaching China at last, they became part of a rescue operation, delivering supplies to cut off villagers in a terrible flood that had swept through the region. But there in the Yangtze River, a current caught hold of their plane while being lowered off an aircraft carrier, flipping the plane on its back. The damaged plane was transported back to Lockheed for repairs.

Home again, there was the horrible kidnapping of their 20-month old son Charles, Jr. in March 1, 1932. A flurry of accusations followed against those handling the case, including Charles himself. Facts were distorted and theories rose as to what really happened. But a letter Anne later wrote to her mother-in-law, drove home  the truth of the matter (at least to me). The New York Times wrote: "At first Miss Gow [the baby's nurse] thought Lindbergh had taken his son from the crib for a joke, Mrs. Lindbergh continued, adding poignantly, ''I did, until 'I saw his face.'' Lindbergh, looking down at his diminutive wife, said, ''Anne, they have stolen our baby.'' [quoted in New York Times, Feb 8, 2001]

A second child was born (Jon) five months later in 1932 to the grieving couple. During this period, Anne found solace in her writing and completed her first book, North to the Orient.

Anne the writer
Charles too found solace in his work and planned another survey trip in the Lockheed Sirius, to explore air routes in the North and South Atlantic regions. In 1933, he and Anne flew over five continents, traveling 30,000 miles for five and a half months. They flew north over Greenland to within  sixteen degrees of the North Pole and as far south as Brazil. It was one of their most dangerous trips taken yet. Anne's next book, Listen! the Wind, told the story.

In 1935, lack of privacy and endangerment to their second son (crank death threats had been sent), forced the Lindberghs to leave the U.S. They settled in England and again off the coast of France where they raised five children in relative peace. More flights took them all over Europe. Some flights, as requested by U.S. Army Intelligence, had Charles flying to Germany to check on their aerial warfare branch, the Luftwaffe. War was brewing in Europe.

By the time WWII broke out, Charles had developed some strong political leanings and was accused of being a Nazi, among other. Anne wrote in his defense but public opinion prevailed. The Lindberghs raised their family and stayed married through it all, despite the extra marital affairs that followed for both. Untold stress, the death of a child, and all public scrutiny aside, they were an admirable couple, and Anne's contribution to aviation and literature speaks volumes. Check out the list below.

Anne's honors and awards (some shared with Charles): 

--1933, U.S. Flag Association Cross of Honor for role surveying transatlantic air routes.
--1934, Hubbard Medal by National Geographic Society for exploratory flight over 5 continents 
--1979, National Aviation Hall of Fame
--1993, Aerospace Explorer Award by Women in Aerospace in recognition of her achievements and contributions to aerospace field.
--1996, National Women's Hall of Fame
--1999, Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey
--1999, International Women in Aviation Pioneer Hall of Fame 

--National Book Award for North to the Orient (1935
--Most Distinguished General Nonfiction of 1935 (for same) by American Booksellers Assoc.
--Most Distinguished General Nonfiction of 1938 for Listen! The Wind (1938) 
--Christopher Award for War Within and Without, final installment of published diaries.

-Gift from the Sea - 1955 (my favorite) Anne's reflections and most widely read book.

-North to the Orient - 1935; Lindberghs' 1931 flight to the Orient via the Arctic Circle.  
-Listen! the Wind - 1938; survey flight of North and South Atlantic by Lindberghs in 1933.

11 other published books, including:
-Earth Shine - nonfiction; about the moon-orbit and Apollo 8 flights; how pictures sent back to the earth showed how rich and beautiful earth was. 

-The Steep Ascent - fiction; story of a perilous flight made by a husband and wife. 
-Five volumes of Anne's diaries and letters (1922-1944).



Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing


  1. WOW Sharon What an amazing story. Marrying Charles Lindburgh then hime teaching her how to fly. Wonderful read and excellently written.

    1. Thank you. I loved learning another angle to Anne's story and tried to focus on her accomplishments as aviator and writer, but of course there was more....

  2. Charles Lindburgh's childhood home is in Little Falls, a small town near where I live. I need to read Gifts of the Sea. What a horrible thing to happen to their first born son.

    I mention you on my blog today in the Journaling Prompt section. Thanks for all the information you're providing during the challenge. I have a deep love of learning.

    Mary at Play off the Page

    1. I highly recommend the book, also 'North to the Orient'. I saw a replica of their plane at The Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum in DC. The display is awesome. To lose a child by any cause is tough enough, but a kidnapping! Awful, truly horrible!

      Thank you for the mention at your blog :) I think lifelong learning is an opportunity, not a burden (although I happened to enjoy school)

  3. Such a tragic and public loss. I can't imagine having that happen to me and then having to contend with all the publicity. This was a wonderful post today. They've all been so interesting, but this one was special.

    1. Thank you :) This story really tugged at my heartstrings as a mother. She found solace in her writing (and flights with Charles), which I might have done, but beyond that I can only imagine. Money and prestige (they had both) could not fix what happened.

  4. What a thorough and wonderful post! I feel so very connected to "Women in Aviation" because of our daughter, Alicia, and her many firsts as a captain for major airlines.

    Mary Montague Sikes
    Notes Along the Way
    The Artful Way

    1. Thanks! Wow, your daughter had an opportunity these pioneer women did not have. Commercial airlines only allowed men in the beginning. Alicia's travels and stories must be fascinating. My niece has flown fighter jets for the Air Force. She's wowed my family as well. It would be fun to do a more modern series someday.

  5. Such an amazingly adventurous life. So sad about her baby, too. That's where I knew their name. It's still one of the most famous kidnapping stories ever.

    1. Books have been written about the kidnapping, and there appears to be a lot of theories online (I was reminded of the Amelia Earhart stories). It was hard not to let it dominate Anne's story. She and Charles led such an adventurous life in the beginning. They really did love each other. Anne lived to be 94 and Charles, 72. Forgot to add that. She had 20 years to reflect.

  6. Appreciate your insights into this woman's life, so interesting. I've read about her and read some of her books. I've also visited Charles Lindberg's home--but some of the things you've shared I wasn't familiar with. Thank you so much for covering her life...

  7. It would be interesting to visit their home and see how they lived. I've only read two of her books. A wonderful writer!

  8. I'm not very much into it, but I hear there are all sorts of stories surrounding Lindbergh, his son and a lot of other things in in life. Sometimes, it looks like he wasn't the golden boy the public eye saw.
    He's a very mysterious figure.

    I didn't know his wife was also a pilot and a writer.

    The Old Shelter - Jazz Age Jazz

    1. Oh, there is tons on this....books and articles. We may never know for sure. I concentrated on the couple. Just loved how they started out. Not every life is perfect in the end.

  9. I never knew any of this info about Anne. Funny how the guys get all the attention. As for rumors, living in the public eye for 20+ years I heard stuff about myself that wasn't true, but people LOVE to talk.

    1. I enjoyed learning more about her too. I knew from her writings there was a deeper side to her. I really enjoyed researching her life (and with Charles).

  10. Her name is always linked to his and the kidnapping which is a shame because she has done quite a bit in her own right. It's great that you showcased her here.

    1. YES, exactly how I feel after learning more. So enjoyed showing another side to her. Thanks again!

  11. Amaazing. I love her writing, but hadn't known some of these details before, not least her own contrinbutions to aviation. I'll have to read more!


"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary
(A.B. Alcott). Stay and visit awhile. Your comments mean a lot to me.

About Me

My photo
You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.