Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born 107 years ago today on June 22, 1906. However, through her writing, especially her letters and diaries, we can know her as a good friend who is still with us, a friend who shares our own desire to become a whole person through the development of the heart, mind and spirit.
Her husband Charles did not believe in special holidays. When he was home, the family didn’t celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day; he missed family graduations, weddings and Christmases. But Anne often noted a holiday and wrote about it in some way. In the 64 years of her letters and diaries, from 1922 to 1986, there are about a dozen entries where Anne noted or described the day of -- or days around -- her birthday.
It’s worthy to note that just these few entries reveal a major part of the emotional arc of her life, from a shy young girl to a woman who fully understood who she was as well as her own self-worth. These few entries also reveal information about some of the most difficult as well as the happiest times of her life.
Throughout her life, Anne pursued clarity, wisdom and self-awareness. She described herself as an observer of life and used that gift to describe people, places and events. She also used her craft of writing to examine her own life, to fully and honestly explore her thoughts, what she believed or what she was thinking at a moment in time. Of course, she matured and developed over the years, which is evident particularly in her letters and diaries.
The first mention of her birthday is a diary entry in 1928. She had just graduated from Smith and was at the new family home in North Haven, Maine. She noted that so much had happened since she was there the previous fall, including “Mexico, Lindbergh . . . College over.” She laments the fate of fog and rain, with “Colonel L. forced down,” obviously canceling a visit, leaving them “dreary and discouraged.” However, the previous entry in the book is around the time of her commencement weekend, and she mentioned a pending visit by Charles and asked, “Why do I have to see him again?”
In two short years, Anne writes a note the day after her birthday to Charles’ mother in Detroit. She had given birth to Charles junior the day before – on her own birthday -- and asked Mrs. Lindbergh if she would come visit them. She described her thoughts on seeing the newborn, “’Oh dear it’s going to look like me – dark hair and a nose all over its face.’ But then I discovered what I think is . . . the unmistakable cleft in the chin! So I went to sleep quite happy.” For someone who observed birthdays, this must have been a gratifying connection – to share a day of birth with little Charles – on that birthday and for the rest of her life.
Two years later in 1932, one line in her diary reflects so much of what had happened.
“Little Charles’ birthday – and mine.”
She was in Englewood, NJ, at the Morrow house, three and a half months after the kidnapping and death of little Charlie and just two months before the birth of Jon.
Mrs. Lindbergh often wrote of her dreams, and in the 1930s, it was often about those who had left her: her father, little Charles, and her sister Elisabeth. On this birthday in 1932, she noted that she could see the baby’s face for a moment in her mind, for the first time. Then she noted, “Dreamed thick dreams of the new baby. ‘Well, it laughs like Charlie.’ The laugh was so clear and distinct – bubbling, spontaneous, like little C. playing upstairs at night at hide-and-go-seek.” Two days later she described another dream incident. “Night – so long to live forgetting that baby – with the picture getting dimmer and dimmer. The ghost of a little boy whom I can’t even see in my waking mind. Then, as though something in me denied this, I dreamed heavily about him. Under the crust of consciousness lay another consciousness that held the image of him securely.” She also said that she was “quite elated” about planning for the new wing of her mother’s house as well as for the new baby.
Three years later on the day before her birthday, she’s back at North Haven facing the loss of Elisabeth, who died just six months earlier. “Elizabeth is not here either. I thought somehow I could find something of her here. Perhaps I will when I am accustomed to it; now I just feel restless and far away from her.”
By 1936, one year later, the Lindberghs were living in England, and visited France for a few days in June. On her birthday, they went to Chateau de Cleres, a “beautiful Garden of Eden, a park-zoo with pink flamingoes walking delicately over the lawns under the blue larkspur and Canterbury bells.” She also mentioned antelopes, deer, kangaroos, and gibbons that were swinging gracefully about the trees. The estate is a 14th century chateau on 32 acres, and rather like a smaller version of the English Downton Abbey.
England agreed with Anne and she was able to regain that genuine sense of happiness. On her birthday in 1937 while at Long Barn in Sevenoaks, she sent her mother a letter conveying great excitement about the beautiful day there. They had just registered the name for her six-week old son Land Morrow. She described for her mother how she was thinking of all her other birthdays and remembering little Charles, and how Land gave her “the most beautiful real smile.” She was “so happy – so happy to have on this birthday my two little boys.” [Jon and Land] She wrote about her sister Constance and how happy she was for her to be getting married on that day at the Morrow family house in Maine. Con married Aubrey Morgan, her sister Elisabeth’s widower.
In true fashion of the Lindberghs, by Anne’s birthday in 1938 they had had moved again. They purchased a four-acre island off the coast of Brittany, France, which, by the way, had a house with no electricity, heating or plumbing. On her birthday, an atmosphere of disorder surrounded Anne, with painters and furniture movers all around, and hired help issues taken care of in French and at the mercy of the tides, which dictated the timing of their comings and goings.
Charles left on her birthday to go to Paris, so in the afternoon Anne decided, “It is my birthday and I think I will just drop things and play with Jon for a while.” After tea, she opened the mail, which included a letter from her publisher Mr. Harcourt. He said he read her transcript for Listen! the Wind in one sitting and had to write immediately to tell her it was one of the days that made publishing worthwhile -- and was a grand job.
The mail also included letters from her mother and from Con, so she sat down in the middle of the confusion so she could “soak myself in them. I feel warm and happy.” When her two maids returned from the mainland, they brought a delivery of flowers, with carnations, calla lilies and asparagus ferns, which had been sent from a friend in America.
It was a very satisfying birthday for Anne, with her children and her writing at the forefront.
One year later in 1939, the Lindberghs were back in America and Anne was in the middle of arranging another move. They were living temporarily at her mother’s house in Englewood, NJ, and on her birthday she drove from there, stopping to pick up two maids at Mrs. James Roosevelt Jr.’s house, to the house they rented on Lloyd Neck on Long Island. Charles was in Washington, DC, at a board meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Anne arrived back in Englewood late, and noted that, “Mother and I have a peaceful evening alone.”
By 1940, Charles was immersed in his noninterventionist work, giving speeches around the country hoping to persuade the government to not engage in the war in Europe. On the day before her birthday, Anne notes that his fan letters are favorable by 10 to 1. That night, she tells Charles she will be thirty-five-years-old. He says that she’ll be only thirty-four. Finally, she agrees that he is right, and he says, “I hope you feel a whole year younger.” On her birthday, she notes that an armistice had been signed between France and Germany, even though General Charles De Gaulle in London was urging the French outside of France still to resist.
The next day Anne has one long paragraph in her diary with a very perceptive observation. She and Charles went for a walk to the beach on Long Island Sound and sat on the rocks until nearly dark. She wrote, “It strikes me, as often, how terribly alone C. is. That first symbolic flight of his is still true. He was always, is now, and will be always out there alone over the ocean, alone seeing his destination, alone having faith that he can reach it, with people on the sidelines shouting, ‘Flying Fool!’ And a few holding him blindly in their hearts – like me.”
Charles was still immersed in his noninterventionist work in June 1941, when he gave a speech at an America First rally at the Hollywood Bowl. Anne accompanied him to the west coast, and on her birthday, they flew to Oregon to visit William Randolph Hearst because “he has been so good on the war issue.” Anne described two nights at his “Cinderella House” at great length, complete with Marion Davies as hostess and Conan Doyle as one of the numerous guests. The impossible schedule (dinner at 10:00 pm, movies at midnight, and breakfast at 11:00 am), the made-up Hollywood women, the vulgar movie, and the whole atmosphere is wonderfully portrayed. She cited Miss Davies as the most stable character in “an extraordinary shifting artificial world.”
By June 1943, Anne and Charles had lived in another house on Long Island, two houses on Martha’s Vineyard and were living in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. A few days before her birthday, Charles criticized Anne for writing in her diary instead of writing a book. He asks: Why can’t she write as much as he does, after all he has a war job, and Anne has household help? Why can’t she run her life like a business? Why can’t she be professional? She explains, “Writing in a diary is my tool for development of awareness. It is the crucible through which the rough material of life must pass before I can use it in art. . . . I must do it.”
A couple of days later, they discuss their objectives for the future. She wrote, “I want to work toward a kind of pure (pure-in-heart) awareness of life and awareness of the true values of life. The meaning of life. I want to impart this awareness to my four children, I want to put what’s left into books. On her 37th birthday, she put on her white pique hostess coat with a black velvet sash and her new gold feather earrings from her mother and Con and has “supper with C. on the porch.” Charles gave her a golden heart.
Less than a year later, Charles left for the Pacific, and Anne was left alone with the children and the household. And she flourished. She took up sculpting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and she developed her own set of friends. Two days before her birthday in 1944, she wrote, “The school had its exhibition and my [sculpted] head was in it. And again people and parties, at Janet’s, at my house. Music and talk about books, art, writing, politics sometimes. It has been great fun for me and in a sense the first time I have ever done it naturally, freely. In this circle I can give my true self as I have never done to a group of people before . . . But here I am perpetually my own self – and they like me!” By the end of August, with Charles still in the Pacific, Anne moved her family to Connecticut.
It is nine years before we hear from Anne again on her birthday. Reeve tells us in Against Wind and Tide that this time after the war was the most difficult period of her mother’s marriage. Now in 1953, Anne is still at a critical time in her life. On her birthday, she writes in a letter that the children have been wild, and wondering what she had done wrong. After they are all in bed, so goes outside to “look at the moonlight on the water. Not brilliant – milky and soft tonight – melting.” Reeve said to her that night, “’Happy Birthnight,’” as it was no longer daytime.
A month later, she has a diary entry that could well be the most compelling and pivotal in all her published letters and diaries. The entry itself is exceptionally worthy of separate comment (which will eventually appear at this site), but appropriate to mention at this birthday point because it provides a mid-point bookend for her life. (This is not meant to be a puzzling oxymoron; this time is clearly a demarcation in her life when any reader of her letters and diaries could and should recognize that she finally presented a strong backbone and belief in herself.) For the two previous years, she had been in therapy, which Charles did not like or comprehend, which made him “an un-understanding and hostile companion.” During those same two years, she walked a “knife-edge” to continue her therapy while providing significant support based on her creative and concrete writing expertise as well as her educational background to help him publish a book worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. And the suppressed bitterness grew.
When the emotional dam broke, the bitterness gushed out, and Anne wrote of her own personal revelation. She knew her self-worth and what she had contributed to Charles, both his life and his success.
“I am too much of a writer not to recognize this book as an epic. It is a great moment in history – greatly told – by a man of greatness. I also know that he would not have told it – could not have told it that way if he had not married me. Twenty years of living with me have gone into that book . . . before that man absorbed my values about the written word – from my books, both those I wrote and those I read, my education, my way of talking, my way of writing, my admiration of writers – to such a degree that he has put it all back in this epic of a book.”
Indeed, all those years when he was the hero, and she was considered the lucky one, Charles, in many ways, was actually “playing up.” Her education and skill level provided a more challenging environment where Charles, because of his lack of formal education, especially in the literary world, could learn and grow in ways he probably didn’t know existed.
Through just these few mentions in her letters and diaries on and around the time of her birthday, it is evident that Anne grew, became wise and self-aware, understanding with greater and greater clarity who she was and what she believed.
Anne lived nearly another 50 years, until February 2001. And the personal and emotional growth up until that revelation in 1953 provided the foundation for her later writings to delve deeper and expand further into her thoughts on family and friends, love and life, old age and death.
Indeed, Happy Birthday Mrs. Lindbergh, our good friend. And thank you for providing a model for how self-examination and self-awareness can lead to a more gratifying and whole life.
People often ask me if I have a favorite book written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I usually note that the question is like asking someone if they have a favorite child. Sometimes that’s an easy answer, but the point is that her different books appeal to me for different reasons. The first book I read of hers was Bring Me a Unicorn, the first in her series of the five books of letters and diaries that covered from 1926 to 1944 and were published from 1972 to 1980. The first one got me hooked, so I quickly read the other four books in the series.
I got hooked on her books for a number of reasons. She considered herself an observer of life and that is so evident in the original letters and diaries. Also, she kept writing about her “craft” of writing, which had an enormous appeal to me. And it was clear she could precisely articulate what she was feeling or thinking or seeing. It’s so easy to have numerous favorite passages from her writing; in fact, it’s difficult to have just a few.
One of my favorite passages stems from my own childhood memories. Growing up, I would visit my grandmother for a few days during the summer or a school break. My grandmother grew African violets on her kitchen windowsill, with the pots sitting on wooden slats held down by the almost-closed window. And, she grew sweet peas on the side of her red, barn-like, one-car garage, where my grandfather would nail up a string trellis for the vines to climb. In the spring, she would pick large bouquets of those pastel flowers, and to this day I can remember smelling that wonderful scent throughout their small house. Every time I see and smell sweet peas, I think of my grandmother and my visits with her.
So, on my second reading of Mrs. Lindbergh’s letters and diaries, it’s no surprise that I came upon a passage that has become one of my favorites:
Those moments are so rare, so few, for anyone – those moments of perfection. Music seems to make mine, to make things stand still . . . . I kept looking at the flowers in a vase near me: lavender sweet peas, fragile winged and yet so still, so perfectly poised, apart, and complete. They are self-sufficient, a world in themselves, a whole-perfect. Is that, then, perfection? Is what those sweet peas had what I have, occasionally, in moments like that? But flowers always have it – poise, completion, fulfillment, perfection; I, only occasionally, like that moment. For that moment I and the sweet peas had an understanding.
This was written in the summer of 1927 before her senior year at Smith and even before she met Charles. And in the stream of her lifelong writing, it was before she honed the craft of her diary writing to address and analyze more weighty subjects like life, death, God, and relationships.
I have favorite quotes about those bigger questions she addresses so often; however, this quote will always be perfect for me just the way it is, especially in the spring.
It certainly appears that “The Aviator’s Wife” has hit the bookstores with great success. It has received incredibly positive reviews and the writer clearly has a following. I’ve tried to comment on the book in various ways, through writers’ blogs, letters to the editor, book store websites, etc.; however, as the latest book of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s letters and diaries says in the title, it feels like I’m going against wind and tide.
I’ve tried to explain with facts why the book is so egregious, noting just a few of the literally dozens of inaccuracies. Then I received one comment back that told me that this was fiction so maybe I should not judge it as a factual book. So, I’ve been thinking about my reaction to the book and why it is so strong.
The book was written by Melanie Benjamin, which is a pseudonym for Melanie Hauser. [Perhaps if she were writing non-fiction, she would use her non-fiction name?] She was so flippant with Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s life at numerous times and in numerous ways. My response to her book is that she made Mrs. Lindbergh’s life into a Harlequin novel. And, to some people, I’ve tried to convey this thought by saying that if the author were trying to write a great book about the life and accomplishments of Meryl Streep, she would depict her as Lindsay Lohan.
But that’s flippant in response. And my objections to the book go much deeper than that and have caused me to try to convey why.
Ms. Benjamin correctly conveys some of the characterization of Mrs. Lindbergh: she was a student and then graduate of Smith College; she met Charles Lindbergh in Mexico City in 1927 and married him a year and a half later; she was the first woman to earn a glider pilot’s license; and she had a son who was kidnapped.
However, Ms. Benjamin does not even begin to convey Mrs. Lindbergh’s character -- her essential nature. One way a character can be revealed is through action under pressure. When little Charlie was kidnapped, the book describes the search for him through Anne when she thinks, “. . . I had the strangest urge to laugh, for we resembled nothing more than characters in a Marx Brothers movie.” Anyone who has read the letters and diaries of Mrs. Lindbergh knows that in this crisis that affected the rest of her life, there would not be a moment of a laugh or even a smile. She was distraught. What mother would not be?
Ten weeks after the kidnapping, little Charlie’s body was found. Two days after that, Mrs. Lindbergh wrote, “He has already been dead a hundred years.” Two months later, she wrote, “Still absolutely numb about baby: ‘This is the hour of lead.’”
The real character of Mrs. Lindbergh can be found in her writings. Her essential nature was not fiction, it was real. She had real tragedies, joys, loves, insecurities, accomplishments, struggles, etc., and we learn what she thought about and how she handled these experiences. She spent a lifetime with an inner life where she examined and conveyed who she was and what she believed. We now have six volumes of her letters and diaries that give us great insight into that rich inner life.
She wrote about her life and experiences for many reasons: to understand, to clarify, to comprehend and to give meaning to them. And all this mattered immeasurably to her. It all matters to us because perhaps we can relate to how she felt, thought or acted and this might give some measure of meaning to our own lives. Of course, this is why we read literature.
“The Aviator’s Wife” not only gets countless facts of Mrs. Lindbergh’s life wrong, it totally and lamentably gets the character of her wrong. So part of why I’ve had such a negative reaction to the book is that people who have not read the letters and diaries – or any of the other nine books by her -- will take this as truth, even knowing its labeled “historical fiction.” This is more than a disservice to a woman who did not want to have her thoughts or ideas mistaken, it is an injustice to a writer who has given so much to those of us who admire and appreciate her.
Mrs. Lindbergh had a remarkable life in a remarkable century. Indeed, through her pioneering aviation and her writing, she helped define and describe the twentieth century. And so many people admire her for who she was, not her characterization but her character.
Character is so much more important than characterization. I’ll stick with Meryl Streep. And I’ll continue to study the real person of Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.
Recipe for Salad, Sydney Smith, 1771-1845
How can a Blog titled “Tea with Mrs. Lindbergh” not talk about tea and Mrs. Lindbergh, especially since tea was an important part of her life for years.
When Anne was growing up, her mother would stop everything at 5:00 pm each day to read to her children. Later, Anne would use this time to read, write poetry or write in her diary. She continued this tradition throughout her life with her own tea time. Indeed, I open my one-woman play (Shells -- A Cameo of Anne Morrow Lindbergh) with Anne walking in with a tray of tea. And, I note in the preface to the play that I did have tea with Mrs. Lindbergh at her home in Darien, CT, in November 1996.
In Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, there is a letter to Anne’s mother (September 1931) from Kyushu, a Japanese island, where she and Charles were at the time during their pioneering flight to the Orient. She wanted to tell her mother about the fun she was having with the wife of the U. S. Consul in Tokyo, including a lesson in Japanese garden-making, a lesson in flower arrangement and its philosophy, and a visit to a museum where the curator told them about the tea ceremony. Then she tells her mother, “please get and read in half an evening The Book of Tea, by Kakuzo Okakura. It is the essence of the Japanese philosophy. To read this and also to learn it from some of the people I’ve met here has been the most thrilling thing to me about this trip.”
Even today, the description of that little book says it is “ . . . about how to live a meaningful life. It is about nature and simplicity, about art and beauty, about the unfathomable depth in the small things in life that surround us.”
It is as though very early in her life, she came across a little book about tea -- and life -- that espoused the thoughts and ideas that she was contemplating and writing about for the rest of her life, including the importance of nature and the individual, simplicity in life, and the importance and art of flowers -- arranging and appreciating them.
The book also talks about the importance of the tea masters in our lives, how they have added to our natural love of simplicity, have shown us the beauty of humility, and how to conduct ourselves in “this foolish sea of troubles we call life.” Indeed, we could say that later in her life, Anne became our tea master, especially with her signature book Gift from the Sea.
The Book of Tea is still available in a soft cover, and one version on Kindle is free.
I recently commented on the Good Housekeeping excerpt of Melanie Benjamin’s book “The Aviator’s Wife.” I received one comment back saying I should read the whole book and then comment, so that is what I’m doing here.
In the original comments, I noted that the Mrs. Lindbergh presented in the excerpt was a misrepresentation of her early life and perhaps --- if the book continued in the same tone and handling of the excerpt -- could be a travesty to the accomplished woman Mrs. Lindbergh was. I also noted that I hoped I could get through the book. So to be fair, I bought the book and read it. All of it.
As I noted before, I have spent ten years studying Anne Morrow Lindbergh and give classes and presentations on her life and accomplishments. I would not spend 10 minutes trying to better understand and appreciate the woman depicted in “The Aviator’s Wife.”
Mrs. Lindbergh was a pioneering aviator, and was given the prestigious Hubbard Medal by National Geographic for her work with Charles in their flights charting routes for Pan Am in the 1930s. She spent nearly six months and traveled 30,000 miles in a single-engine aircraft flying in a big circle around the Atlantic; this was after their similar trip to the Orient. She wrote two best-selling books about these trips, and with her own abilities and craft became a noted author. (As of today, after more than 100 years, the Hubbard Medal has only been given out for 22 events and/or people.)
Mrs. Lindbergh published 13 books in her lifetime. Gift From the Sea, first published in 1955, is still in print. Over many years, she also wrote numerous articles for various magazines. Perhaps the most revealing book is the one that came out last spring, a book of letters and diaries spanning 1946 to 1986, Against Wind and Tide. Reeve Lindbergh and other family members spent four years going through 40 years of writing, some of it the most personal and revealing writing of Mrs. Lindbergh. It’s a treasure for all her admirers, and especially for someone who has spent years learning about her.
Ms. Benjamin treats the Lindberghs with disrespect when she writes that Charles laughed and clapped when Bruno Hauptmann was executed for the kidnapping of Charles, Jr. Charles was a different duck, for sure, but even that would be out of character. Ms. Benjamin described the Lindberghs and their employees through Anne’s thoughts when they were looking throughout the house for little Charlie the night of the kidnapping. She said, “. . . I had the strangest urge to laugh, for we resembled nothing more than characters in a Marx Brothers movie.” Again, in such a frantic time for such a sensitive and thoughtful person, I don’t think Mrs. Lindbergh would be anywhere near a laugh or even a smile, let alone a thought about the Marx Brothers.
Ms. Benjamin treats some subjects in a laughable manner. She made it appear that the Lindberghs and Amelia Earhart had great disdain for each other; nothing could be further from the truth. If Ms. Benjamin had read the diaries and books of both Anne and Amelia, she would know that they admired and had great respect for each other. And why be flip and characterize it otherwise when the truth itself is so interesting. (There are literally dozens of inaccuracies in the book.)
Ms. Benjamin was likewise sketchy and flip in occasionally dropping in the names of Robert Goddard and Alexis Carrel, people who were import to Charles and his story. She also mentions that Charles became the spokesman for America First and describes it as “ . . . that ragtag group of individuals. . . .” That “ragtag” group included Potter Stewart, Sargent Shriver and Gerald Ford; they were headed by former four-star General Robert Wood, then Chairman of the Board of Sears.
But what about Rilke and Antoine de St. Exupery, people who were not only important to her but had a great influence on Anne? They were not mentioned. She loved poetry and would either memorize or read poetry for hours flying with Charles sitting in that back cockpit. This notion was not conveyed in the book either.
Mrs. Lindbergh was a woman of substance -- highly educated, incredibly literate and wonderfully expressive in her writing. In her author’s notes, Ms. Benjamin said that “the inner life can be explored only in novels, not histories -- or even diaries or letters.” Mrs. Lindbergh’s letters and diaries are all about her inner life and they are cohesive and well thought out. They are truly thoughtful in all ways about every aspect of her life. I would urge everyone to read the series of now six books of letters and diaries to even begin to understand this woman. I’d rather pursue the remarkable woman Mrs. Lindbergh was in order to learn and understand more about her compelling life than to spend even a minute with the one-dimensional aviataor’s wife and the disparaged life portrayed in this book.
Recently a new book was published on Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Aviator's Wife, and an excerpt appeared in Good Housekeeping. This is the note I sent to the magazine as well as posted on Amazon with the listing of the book. I received a note back from an Amazon customer asking me to read the whole book before I make any comments, and I’ll be posting my response to that shortly. I think those of you who know me will understand my response to this book, so here it is.
I’ve been studying Anne Morrow Lindbergh for more than ten years and I found the excerpt in Good Housekeeping from “The Aviator’s Wife” by Melanie Benjamin to be not only a misrepresentation of her early life, but if this continues throughout the book, a travesty to the accomplished woman Mrs. Lindbergh was.
I give classes and presentations on Mrs. Lindbergh, and have written a one-woman play on her (Shells -- a Cameo of Anne Morrow Lindbergh), so I was distressed to see her life turned into a Harlequin novel.
Mrs. Lindbergh had a fascinating and accomplished life: she came from great wealth, she married the world’s most famous hero of her time, she was a pioneering aviator, and she was a significant writer of the 20th century. Her early letters and diaries as well as her public appearances later in life clearly show she was a shy young person. In fact, she described herself as the shiest, most self-conscious adolescent who ever lived. When she met Charles Lindbergh in 1927, she was just months away from graduating from Smith College with the two most prestigious writing awards given by the school. But she absolutely and clearly was not a helpless dunce, at that time or anytime afterward.
Mrs. Lindbergh also said that early on in her marriage, she considered herself a devoted page serving her knight, a role she could play until she grew up. Well, she did grow up. And anyone who has read the latest book of her letters and diaries edited by her daughter Reeve Lindbergh, Against Wind and Tide, would clearly see that Mrs. Lindbergh grew to understand not only her own intelligence and self worth, but also her contributions to Charles’ successes.
So to have a book that defined her life in terms of her husband by the title (The Aviator’s Wife) is an erroneous beginning to even attempt to tell the story of this remarkable woman.
I have read and studied everything I can get my hands on related to Mrs. Lindbergh, so I will read this book. But if it continues to present inaccuracies on every page as well as a frivolous and disparaging attitude toward someone for whom I have so much admiration and respect, I only hope I can finish it.
Various presidents of the United States influenced, or were connected in some way to, the lives of Anne Morrow and Charles Lindbergh. So, I thought on this – Election Day – I’d talk about those connections.
Just about the time Charles made his historic flight to Paris, Anne’s father Dwight Morrow was appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President Calvin Coolidge, who he met while they were both students at Amherst. Ambassador Morrow had to improve relations between the two countries, so he called on Charles to make a trip to Mexico City in the Spirit of St. Louis. As a partner at J. P. Morgan, Dwight had helped Charles manage his personal finances after his successful flight brought him a great deal of monetary reward.
Later, Dwight Morrow was appointed Senator from New Jersey, and it was thought that he would be the Republican presidential candidate in 1932. Unfortunately, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1931.
On the cusp of World War II for America, Charles was a non-interventionist, much to the irritation of President Theodore Roosevelt. In fact, The President offered Charles a cabinet position of “Secretary of the Air” if Charles would just stop his opposition to the war. Charles refused. When Charles worked for Ford Motor in Detroit during the war, he made himself rather scarce the day President Roosevelt visited the B-24 factory.
Meanwhile, President Roosevelt accused Charles of being an appeaser, and ultimately Charles resigned in protest as a colonel in the Army Air Corps. It was President Dwight Eisenhower who nominated Charles to the rank of Brigadier General and reinstated him into the service in 1954.
Charles usually voted for the Republican candidate for President, with a noteworthy exception. In 1952, Anne gave Charles a number of speeches written by Adlai Stevenson; Charles was so impressed, he voted for Stevenson, the first Democrat to ever receive his vote for President. Later, in 1964, Charles voted for Lyndon Johnson for President.
Charles voted for Richard Nixon in 1960, and as A. Scott Berg noted in his Pulitzer-prize winning biography, Lindbergh, it was “halfheartedly.” But that didn’t stop President John Kennedy from inviting the Lindberghs to a state dinner in April 1962 in honor of the French Minister of State in charge of Cultural Affairs; and, they were invited to stay the night in the White House. Anne was scheduled for the Queen’s room and Charles for the Lincoln room; when Anne questioned that, they were both put into the Queen’s room. They attended small, private gatherings before and after the state dinner, where Charles sat at the President’s table, and Anne sat at the Vide-President’s table. Before they left in the morning, they met with Mrs. Kennedy and her children, and they exited the White House through the President’s office to avoid the media in the front.
Charles was quite won over by President Kennedy, but one can only imagine that Anne was in her element with all the cultural elite in the evening and the First Family in the morning. In fact, she described the evening as being a little like heaven, with all the writers, artists, etc. Her thank you note to Mrs. Kennedy articulated her appreciation for the evening. She wrote: “That such an atmosphere was created, at such a party at the highest point of our government and in a formal and dignified setting, is a great tribute to you both and an inspiration to the people who were privileged to be witnesses.”
Anne sent signed copies of their books to the children; North to the Orient for Caroline, and The Spirit of St. Louis for John, Jr.
Mrs. Lindbergh began a friendship with Lady Bird Johnson that evening and subsequently attended several luncheons with her. There are two interesting letters to Mrs. Johnson included in Against Wind and Tide. The first is declining an invitation to a luncheon in 1963 for the wife of the President of Venezuela. She was disappointed she could not attend to join in on the discussion because, she said, “the subject of women’s interests, needs and problems in America today is close to my heart.” The second letter almost reads as a cry for help when, in 1967, she declines an invitation to the White House for her and Charles. She wrote that “because of the absence of Mr. Lindbergh from the country and Mrs. Lindbergh’s lack of knowledge of the date of his return or where to reach him, they are unable to accept the very kind invitation of President and Mrs. Johnson for dinner Monday evening, June 12th.”
My goodness, such rarefied associations. The Lindberghs certainly had a first-hand view of our government and its leaders, from Coolidge to Johnson.
My first close views of government -- and some of my most vivid childhood memories -- come from Election Day in the neighborhood. My mother was an official election officer, as were other women in the neighborhood. The polling places were our garages, which in some cases, were only cleaned every four years. The women would plan for weeks -- who would make the brownies, what favorite dishes would be provided for lunch, who would bring out the coffee urn and keep it going throughout the day and night. I can remember the count being tallied by the women around a small table at night, with respect and competence, handling and stacking the ballots, calling out the names, marking the sheets, and rechecking, all done with a cadence and rhythm of a drum corps. Surely not rarefied, but nonetheless democracy at work.
From when they were first married, Anne and Charles had dogs. When Charles, Jr., was just a toddler, they added two dogs to the family -- Skean, a Black Scottish Terrier; and Wahgoosh, a fox terrier named after one of Charles’ childhood dogs. (Wahgoosh is Chippewa for fox.) In Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, there is a photo of Charles, Jr., with four dogs identified as Peter, Skean, Bogey and Pim. The photo was taken at Next Day Hill, the Morrow house in Englewood, NJ, so Peter, Bogey and Pim must have been Morrow dogs. Peter and Pim appear to be West Highland White Terriers, while Bogey appears to be a Black Scottish Terrier.
In July 1932, in order to feel safer in their home after the kidnapping and death of Charles, Jr., they bought a German shepherd from a trainer in Princeton, NJ, near their home in Hopewell. The dog’s original name was Pal, but the Lindberghs soon renamed the dog Thor, after the Norse god associated with a number of items, including thunder, strength and the protection of mankind. It didn’t take Charles long to train the dog as the protector of his family. Within a week, Anne wrote in her diary, “The devotion of this dog following me everywhere is quite thrilling, like having a new beau.” Thor would wake Anne in the morning with his nose on the bed.
When Anne and Charles moved to Europe in late 1935, they transported Thor and Skean there and back as well -- on the Queen Mary. Thor was quite the traveler, moving with the Lindberghs to their residences in Englewood, NJ; Long Barn in England; Illiec on the coast of France; Lloyd Neck on Long Island; Martha’s Vineyard; and finally Bloomfield Hills, MI, where he died in early August 1942. They expected and prepared for Thor’s death; Charles dug the grave before he left town, and Anne had help putting Thor in the grave before covering him with leaves and as much dirt as she could shovel. (She gave birth to Scott within two weeks of Thor’s death, so this was not an easy task.)
The Lindberghs had other dogs later in life. In the mid-1950s, she mentions Sigee, a German shepherd, a couple of times. In December 1954, she talks about Sigee at her mother’s home in New Jersey, so perhaps this is the dog that Reeve wrote about later as always getting sick in the family car while going across the George Washington Bridge. There is one mention of Davin, a Cairn terrier, in February 1967. In diary entries in 1982 to 1985, Anne mentions Berwick, another Cairn terrier. On a flight to Switzerland in 1982, she was moved to first class and was grateful because then she didn’t have to have Berwick on her lap during the flight.
In a diary entry in January 1983, Anne talks about her daily schedule as a widow in her seventies. The mornings provide the only good time for clear thinking or difficult jobs. But she does say that after her afternoon nap, a walk with Berwick was invigorating, followed, of course, by her ritual afternoon tea.
The Lindbergh children had other animal friends as well. In 1941, when the family was living in Lloyd Neck, Long Island, Land had a pet lamb named Sammy. And in 1967, when Reeve was attending Radcliff, she bought a pet monkey and named it Roger. I think it’s safe to assume there were numerous family pets over the years that gave them that all-important connection to nature and the cycle of life.
In the first five of Anne’s books of letters and diaries, there are family photos, and many include their dogs. The latest book, Against Wind and Tide, contains no photos of any family dogs. (Actually, I found it personally disappointing that there were so few photos in that book, especially previously unpublished ones.)
At the time of Thor’s death, Anne wrote that she would never meet such devotion again in any living creature. But even more profound, I think, is this diary entry on the day of Thor’s death: “There is a stillness about the day on which even a dog dies. Life goes on around it but the stillness remains like these black holes in the Milky Way that drop one through to a further depth of the infinite.”
I hadn’t really thought about making an entry here about some of Anne’s best friends -- her dogs -- but then something happened. I went to Florida in September to give two presentations on Anne; one at The Villages Lifelong Learning College, and one at the Orlando Public Library. When I returned home, my cat was ill. Annie -- yes, named after Mrs. Lindbergh. She only lasted ten days from a fast-growing tumor. Annie was a faithful, constant and devoted companion for more than 14 years. And so I got to thinking about Mrs. Lindbergh and her companions and thought I would post a remembrance for those companions and friends who offer so much to all of us without asking much in return.
In Against Wind and Tide, Mrs. Lindbergh discusses, analyzes and examines the notion of loneliness often, especially having to face it after such an active life, a life where people are dependent upon one as the hub of a family. She talks about how solitude, much sought-after in the middle years of life, can become loneliness in one’s later years. This will be a subject of itself in later posts, but I thought it was fair to raise it now, when talking about the loss of one’s friends, two- or four-legged. My house has never felt so big or lonely as now.
We all deal with loss and grief in our own way, even though there are definite similarities in how we cope. Mrs. Lindbergh said that after the kidnapping and death of little Charles, she wrote, and the writing saved her sanity. And while losing a child is not equal to the loss of a pet, one grieves nonetheless. I think one of my ways will be to give Against Wind and Tide another, my third, reading. It just seems right for a cat named Annie.
Even though Mrs. Lindbergh clearly favored dogs, I think she surely understood about cats as well. In 1933, while they were on the Atlantic survey trip, they were in Copenhagen and attended a breakfast -- even though it was noon -- and Anne is in a dining room she describes as “perfect.” She enjoyed that morning so well and the people she was with, she wrote, “I feel like a cat rubbed the right way.”
One of the great pleasures of my work on Anne Morrow Lindbergh is the ability to bring her story to so many people who are great fans of her work, even if it’s just a small part of that work, but perhaps aren’t familiar with so many of the more interesting details of her life. Next week, I’m taking that story on the road as I travel to The Villages in Florida for a presentation on Wednesday through their Lifelong Learning College. While I’m in the area, I’m also going to give a presentation at the Orlando Public Library on Friday, September 21, at 10:30 am in the Albertson Room. So many people are wondering why I’m driving to Florida from Virginia, and it’s an easy and good explanation.
When I give classes on Mrs. Lindbergh through the Christopher Wren Association here in Williamsburg, I fill two large tables with all kinds of show-and-tell items. I always have all of Anne’s books as well as the magazines that contain an article by her, and they are numerous as she wrote those articles for decades. One McCall’s Magazine (March 1937) just has her on the cover. She was selected as the first to appear on the cover as part of a program initiated to honor America’s great women who had won distinction through achievement. The portrait is by Neysa McMein and is truly lovely of Anne, with thoughtful blue eyes and wavy dark hair.
I also have all the books Charles wrote, as well as many of his magazine articles, and Reeve’s non-children’s books. Then I have related books that are biographies of the Lindberghs or a related person, such as Antoine Saint-Exupery or Elizabeth Cutter Morrow (Anne’s mother; a lovely valentine written by her daughter Constance), or Dwight Morrow (Anne’s father; a biography sponsored by the family after his death in 1931). And I have many different versions of Gift From the Sea, after all, it’s been in print since 1955. I put these items on vintage hand-embroidered tablecloths I’ve collected over the years. Two are particularly wonderful and are from the 1930s, so they fit in with Anne’s era, and I usually receive questions or nice comments on them.
Then I have photos I’ve mounted on boards that go on easels, including photos of the New York City apartments (from the outside) associated with the Morrows and Lindberghs; the outside of the house in Darien, CT; photos from the New Jersey State Police Headquarters of the kidnapping items as well as photos of the outside of the Lindbergh house in Hopewell, NJ; photos from the Lindbergh exhibit at the Missouri History Museum; and various other items I’ve collected over the years.
I’ve found that these items are wonderfully popular and appreciated by the attendees. And, they complement the information I talk about in the presentations.
So, I’m taking my Anne Morrow Lindbergh treasures with me to Florida to share with the people there. And I always meet so many lovely people interested in her writing,life, family, accomplishments -- and hopefully in my presentation of all this.
The new book of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s letters and diaries is terrific for so many reasons. (Against Wind and Tide, edited by Reeve Lindbergh) One of those reasons for me is that since I’ve followed her writing and thinking pretty closely, there are a good number of instances where a mention of an event or a thought of hers in this new book ties in with some thoughts from something previously published. One of those items is flowers. Mrs. Lindbergh loved nature and the natural: birds, flowers, shells, the cycle of life, etc. And so many of her thoughts and beliefs were mentioned in her early writings and then she would mention them over the years, developing or slightly changing the thought or perhaps the wording.
In the second book of her letters and diaries (Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead) published in 1973 but covering the period 1929 to 1932, there is a letter to her mother on September 18, 1931, when she and Charles are in Japan on their first survey trip. She tells her mother to get and read The Book of Tea, by Okakura Kakuzo. She says that it is the essence of Japanese philosophy. “To read this and also to learn it from some of the people I’ve met here has been the most thrilling thing to me about this trip.” Wow. That trip had numerous thrilling things associated with it, so this is quite a statement. The book was originally published in 1906, and it was published again in 2008. (It is available through Amazon for the Kindle at no cost: (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+book+of+tea ) It’s just a slim book about the Japanese tea ceremony, including a chapter on flowers. It’s described as a book about how to live a meaningful life.
Fast forward to 1955 when Gift from the Sea was published. In this slim book, Anne has an essay on the Moon Shell, admonishing the reader to consciously “practice the art of solitude for an hour or a day or a week.” Quiet time alone was enormously important to her, even if it were just reading or listening to music. Even arranging flowers. She said, “Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day -- like writing a poem, or saying a prayer.”
But in the latest book (Against Wind and Tide), Mrs. Lindbergh reveals herself a bit through flowers. In a diary entry on July 14, 1951, she reveals that after six weeks of analysis with Dr. John Rosen, she is a bit adrift, so she returns to the essence of being a woman, including keeping a house and arranging the flowers, this being “the only creative thing I can do.” Then two years later, she says in a letter that one often fills creative hungers “with the next-best things,” like flower arranging.
And to top all this off, Mrs. Lindbergh left a lasting flower legacy at Smith College. (Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Cutter Morrow, graduated from Smith in 1896; Anne graduated in 1928.) In the Spring 2002 edition of The Council Chronicle, a Smith publication, it’s reported that Anne established an endowed fun to provide fresh flowers for the Smith Library Browsing Room. On another web site, it was reported that Anne and her sister Constance Morrow Morgan organized a campaign for funds for fresh flowers as a tribute to her Smith writing instructor and lifelong friend Mina Kirstein Curtiss. It must be the same endowment.