Six years before aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart and her navigator mysteriously disappeared over the South Pacific while attempting to fly a plane around the world in 1937, she married publisher and publicist George Putnam after he asked for the sixth time – but not before making it clear that she would in no way be a lesser partner in the union. On their wedding day, she gave Putnam a note that he made public after her disappearance, calling it “brutal in its frankness but beautiful in its honesty.” An objective reader might also wonder why Earhart went through with the wedding, based on her words.
Putnam’s typed version of the letter, dated February 7, 1931, is part of Purdue University’s George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart papers. It is addressed to “GPP” and signed “A.E.”:
“There are some things which should be writ before we are married – things we have talked over before – most of them.
You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means so much to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations, but have no heart to look ahead.
On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the differences which arise may best be avoided should you or I become interested deeply (or in passing) in anyone else.
Please let us not interfere with the other’s work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements. In this connection I may have to keep some place where I can go to be myself, now and then, for I cannot guarantee to endure at all times the confinements of even an attractive cage.
I must exact a cruel promise and this is that you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.
I will try to do my best in every way and give you that part of me you know and seem to want.”
The couple must have found that level of happiness, because their union was still in place when Amelia’s plane disappeared long after the ceremony.