The Thinking 

Amelia Earhart’s Views on Marriage

July 24, 2012


IS IT any surprise that Amelia Earhart, the child-woman who was lost at sea, was opposed to fidelity in marriage and refused to take her husband’s name? Wikipedia has an excellent article on Earhart, who was born 115 years ago today. I offer it as one more bit of evidence against the widely-held view that feminism is a product of the 1960s. It includes this:

For a while Earhart was engaged to Samuel Chapman, a chemical engineer from Boston, breaking off her engagement on November 23, 1928.[68] During the same period, Earhart and Putnam had spent a great deal of time together, leading to intimacy. George P. Putnam, who was known as GP, was divorced in 1929 and sought out Earhart, proposing to her six times before she finally agreed.[N 6] After substantial hesitation on her part, they married on February 7, 1931, in Putnam’s mother’s house in Noank, Connecticut. Earhart referred to her marriage as a “partnership” with “dual control.” In a letter written to Putnam and hand delivered to him on the day of the wedding, she wrote, “I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaevil [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.”[N 7][71][72]

Earhart’s ideas on marriage were liberal for the time as she believed in equal responsibilities for both “breadwinners” and pointedly kept her own name rather than being referred to as Mrs. Putnam. When The New York Times, per the rules of its stylebook, insisted on referring to her as Mrs. Putnam, she laughed it off. GP also learned quite soon that he would be called “Mr. Earhart.”[73] There was no honeymoon for the newlyweds as Earhart was involved in a nine-day cross-country tour promoting autogyros and the tour sponsor, Beech-Nut chewing gum. Although Earhart and Putnam had no children, he had two sons by his previous marriage to Dorothy Binney (1888–1982),[74] a chemical heiress whose father’s company, Binney & Smith, invented Crayola crayons:[75] the explorer and writer David Binney Putnam (1913–1992) and George Palmer Putnam, Jr. (born 1921).[76] Earhart was especially fond of David who frequently visited his father at their family home in Rye, New York. George had contracted polio shortly after his parents’ separation and was unable to visit as often.

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