Anne's Gifts

February 06, 2012

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Anne Morrow Lindbergh is one of my favorite writers—and one of my heroes. Tomorrow will mark the 11th anniversary of her death at the age of 94, and in honor of her memory, I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned about her.

 I don’t remember how I discovered her writings, perhaps in my creative writing class in high school, but as a teenager, I was attracted to the romance of her life. She, a quiet, shy and studious girl, fell in love with dashing aviator (and “America’s most eligible bachelor”) Charles Lindbergh. Anne left behind her more privileged and intellectual background and embraced the action-filled life Charles lived. From the moment they announced their engagement, the media hounded them. The very private Anne Morrow became part of “America’s golden couple,” and the very public bride of a hero.

With Charles’ instruction and encouragement, Anne earned a private pilot’s license, and also eventually became the first woman to hold a first-class glider pilot’s license. These feats were unusual, because at the time women didn’t enter into “masculine” pursuits like aviation very often. She served as her husband’s radio operator, navigator and co-pilot on several long flights charting potential routes for commercial airlines. Eventually, Anne was the first woman awarded the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal for her duties as “crew” on two of these survey flights. These flights, in sometimes dangerous conditions in their single-engine airplane over uncharted air space, brought Anne and Charles closer and were some of their happiest times together. (Later in life, Anne received several more awards for her contributions to aviation.)

Anne and Charles had six children, though tragically, their first child, Charles Jr., was kidnapped and killed at the age of 18 months. For many years, Anne felt continually pulled between her roles—her diaries show a constant battle for time and space to write and think, all while raising children and accompanying Charles on many of his flights. As she writes in the introduction of Locked Rooms and Open Doors, “But on the other hand, the trip [an Atlantic survey flight], especially as it was prolonged for five and a half months, separated me from my child [their second son, Jon], the most healing and nourishing element in my life. It also crowded out any possibility of a quiet contemplative coming to terms with grief, for me a necessary inner process, and it meant a long interruption in the work I had just restarted of writing my book [North to the Orient].”

Despite the many demands on her time, Anne produced 13 books, including five volumes of diaries and letters. Her most famous book, Gift From the Sea, a collection of essays about women’s roles, was inspired by a vacation on Florida’s Captiva Island. North to the Orient, was 1935’s number one bestseller.

Despite a number of serious challenges to their relationship, Anne and Charles remained married until Charles’ death in 1974. Anne continued to write after his death, though she did not publish any more books.

I want to be like Anne Morrow Lindbergh in the sense that I fully enter into life while still retaining a sense of myself and my own work. She was able to move beyond her comfort zone and achieve more than she ever dreamed possible. It encourages me that she felt the same work/family tug of war I do, even though she lived in a different time and under different circumstances. I’m not alone in feeling torn between the needs of my family and my own ambitions.

I recently picked up a lovely copy of Gift From the Sea at my library’s bookstore—I’ll end this post with some of Anne’s words on the topic of solitude taken from it:

“For it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation. It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you off from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others…. Only when one is connected to one’s own core is one connected to others, I am beginning to discover. And, for me, the core, the inner spring, can best be refound through solitude.”

If you want to know more about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, check out Kathleen C. Winters’ biography, Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air, or pick up one of Anne’s collections of diaries and letters.

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  1. Interesting post - I never knew much about her other than the kidnapping of course. She sounds like a fascinating person to read about.

  2. She was really rather remarkable! I've read several of her books, but my favorites are her diaries and letters. I guess I'm just nosy!

  3. I'm so looking forward to starting her first diary (am trying to finish that collection of diary excerpts I've mentioned first). I have read a bit about Amelia Earhart and have read Beryl Markham's book, but somehow never got around to AML. She seems like a really amazing woman. I had no idea that she had six children--how did she manage all the things she did? Did you know that a final diary is being published this spring? My library is due to get it--it looks interesting as well. And I have Gift from the Sea out from the library now. Lovely post--it makes me all the more excited to get to her work now!

  4. No, I didn't know another diary was coming out! I will definitely snatch that up.

    To me, AML is a personal hero because of all she accomplished. She wasn't perfect (nor was Charles), but she really seemed to live life to the full. Yet her diaries show that she was very human, and she had the same struggles we all do.

    Hope you enjoy her diary when you get it--did you get Bring Me a Unicorn?