Pilot and aviation historian Winters focuses on the neglected subject of Mrs. Lindbergh’s work as copilot, navigator and radio operator on pioneering flights exploring air routes for the infant airline industry.
At the time of her death, in 2001, Anne Morrow Lindbergh already seemed a figure from the yellowed headlines of the distant past. Her renown came early, with her 1929 marriage to the most celebrated hero of the 20th century. Its tragic second act included the most famous kidnapping/murder trial in U.S. history, but the bereaved mother recovered to write many bestselling books. Largely forgotten today, though publicly appreciated in her time, is her role as one of the early and important women in the almost entirely male world of aviation. Winters covers Morrow’s sheltered early life as part of a wealthy, service-minded family (her father was ambassador to Mexico at the time she met Charles Lindbergh) and touches, sometimes more than briefly, on her marriage, the kidnapping and her literary career. But the author devotes the bulk of this narrative to meticulously tracking the many flights Anne and Charles made on behalf of Pan Am. Her husband proudly identified her as “crew,” but Anne was careful never to claim too much on behalf of her aviation exploits, even though they required undoubted skill and courage. She always maintained that for her, flying constituted first and foremost a refuge, helping to preserve the intimacy of a marriage subject to overwhelming public scrutiny. This makes her a tricky feminist icon, considered strictly as an aviator, and Winters, following her subject’s lead, wisely never overstates the case. Anne’s flying career ended in her early 30s. Near the close of her long life, after finally receiving numerous awards honoring her contributions to aviation’s golden age, she did concede that her years spent flying were, perhaps, her “most feminist period.”
A perfectly calibrated tribute to an early heroine of the air.