Monday, February 7, 2011

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the American aviation pioneer and diarist, died a decade ago today. Her life was inextricably bound up with that of her more famous husband, Charles, an extraordinary man who first introduced her to aviation, and with whom she made exploratory flights and wrote books. For many years, the couple never seemed out of the headlines, largely because their first child was kidnapped and murdered amid a frenzy of media attention, but also because Charles took a controversial political stance during the war.

Born in New Jersey, in 1906, Anne was the daughter of Dwight Morrow, a US senator and ambassador. She studied at Smith College, and then, in 1929, married the by-then famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh. He taught her to fly, and they went on many exploratory trips, air surveying and charting new routes, in which she acted as co-pilot, navigator and radio operator. Their first child, Charles, was kidnapped as a toddler, and then killed. The frenzy of publicity eventually led the couple to move to England where they lived in a property owned by Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West, and then to France, before returning to the US in 1939. They had five more children.

During the early years of the Second World War, Charles was accused of being anti-semitic: and he vehemently opposed US involvement. Anne’s family, though, held the opposite view. In order to reconcile the differences, she later said, she wrote a book called The Wave of the Future, arguing that something like Fascism might be inevitable. Earlier, in 1935, she had published her first book, North to the Orient, describing a single-engine aeroplane journey she took over uncharted routes from Canada and Alaska to Japan and China.

After Pearl Harbour, Charles became more involved with the US war effort. Having been refused permission to rejoin the Army Air Corps, he worked as a technical adviser for aircraft manufacturers, and in 1944 persuaded United Aircraft to send him to the Pacific where he improved the performance of fighter bombers and flew around 50 combat missions. After the war, his reputation was rehabilitated with the American government and the public. He was often in Europe, where, it came to light much later, he had had three mistresses and fathered seven more children. He died in 1974.

Anne had continued to write a books after the war. In particular, Gift from the Sea in 1955, an early environmental work, was a national best seller. She suffered a series of strokes in the early 1990s, and died on 7 February 2001. Further biographical information is available at Wikipedia and the Charles Lindbergh website.

Anne was an inveterate diary writer, and, from the early 1970s, she began publishing them through Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. The first volume, which covered the years 1929 to 1932, was called Bring Me a Unicorn. Four more collections followed: Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead - 1929-1932 (1973); Locked Rooms and Open Doors - 1932-1935 (1974); The Flower and the Nettle - 1936-1939 (1976); and War Within and Without - 1939-1944 (1980).

Extracts from Anne’s diaries freely available online are few and far between. Mike Eckel’s obituary of her for Associated Press (available at the Charles Lindbergh website) has a few. He quotes from the introduction to Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead - ‘Flying was a very tangible freedom. In those days, it was beauty, adventure, discovery - the epitome of breaking into new worlds’ - and then says, in the same book, she wrote of the pain she and her husband felt after the body of their son was discovered in May 1932.

‘We sleep badly and wake up and talk. I dreamed right along as I was thinking - all of one piece, no relief. I was walking down a suburban street seeing other people’s children and I stopped to see one in a carriage and I thought it was a sweet child, but I was looking for my child in his face. And I realized, in the dream, that I would do that forever.’

Mrs Lindbergh, the obituary continues, who struggled to maintain her family’s privacy, wrote of her disdain for the media spotlight: ‘I was quite unprepared for this cops-and-robbers pursuit. . . I felt like an escaped convict. This was not freedom.’ And, she wrote in her diary that when her husband landed in Paris, he was ‘completely unaware of the world interest - the wild crowds below. The rush of the crowds to the plane is symbolic of life rushing at him - a new life - new responsibilities - he was completely unaware of and unprepared for.’

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