Before I read The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin I knew only three things about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I knew she had been married to Charles Lindbergh, the legendary pilot who completed a historic flight from New York to Paris in 1927. I knew that her little son had been kidnapped and killed. Finally I knew she had been a writer. I studied a beautiful passage from her book Gift From the Sea with my high school English students.
After reading Melanie Benjamin’s historical novel I’ve learned a great deal more about Anne Lindbergh. I didn’t know………..She was an accomplished pilot in her own right. She flew over 40,000 miles with her husband acting as his co-pilot, navigator and radio operator. They surveyed the continent charting routes for commercial airlines. In 1931 she and Charles traveled in a single-engine plane from Canada to Alaska to Japan and China. Together they explored all five continents by air. Anne was also the first licensed woman glider pilot in the United States. History books rarely mention her contributions to air travel and even her own children were unaware of it till they were adults.
Besides her oldest son who was kidnapped and killed Anne was a mother to five other children, three boys and two girls. She raised these children largely on her own because her husband was rarely home and in fact unbeknownst to Anne, Charles had three mistresses in Germany with whom he fathered seven other children. Although Gift From the Sea, is her most well-known book Anne was the author of eleven others. Her husband Charles won a Pulitzer Prize for his autobiography The Spirit of St. Louis however the author of The Aviator’s Wife Melanie Benjamin suggests that Anne did a great deal of the writing and editing of the book and it was as much her book as her husband’s.
Anne was from a well-known family. Her father Dwight was the American ambassador to Mexico and a United States senator. Her mother was a poet and teacher and served as the president of the prestigious Smith College.
Before World War II Anne and Charles visited Germany and Charles professed admiration for Nazi Germany. Later he became a strong advocate for keeping America out of the war against Germany. Some felt he was anti- Semitic. Although Anne publicly supported her husband, in her diary she wrote about her ‘profound sense of grief’ about the stance he was taking.
“Don’t wish me happiness
I don’t expect to be happy all the time…
It’s gotten beyond that somehow.
Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor.
I will need them all.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh- Gift From the Sea
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