We always knew Amelia Earhart was a feminist who was far ahead of her time — but a document we recently stumbled upon shows just how modern the pilot's views on marriage and monogamy were.
Last week, researchers discovered a photo that made us reexamine what we thought we had known about Earhart's death. This has once again piqued public interest in her life, including her marriage to publisher George Putnam. Before meeting Putnam, she was engaged to chemical engineer Sam Chapman, but put off marrying him, fearing that it would interfere with her flying career.
Brides magazine reports that according to the Purdue University archive of Amelia Earhart documents, Putnam proposed to her six times before she said yes. She clearly had major reservations about the institution of marriage, writing in a letter to a friend that, "I am still unsold on marriage... I may not ever be able to see [it] except as a cage until I am unfit to work or fly or be active."
Putnam was married when they met, and the two carried on an affair before he divorced his wife. They had a secret wedding at Putnam's mother's house in Connecticut on February 7, 1931, with none of the extras that tend to accompany many modern-day weddings: no engagement ring, no decorations or flowers, and they didn't even exchange wedding rings. Reportedly, when the judge addressed Earhart as Mrs. Putnam, she responded, "Please, sir, I prefer Miss Earhart."
We can't help but notice that in 1931, Earhart was more progressive than many of our peers are today; one study shows that half of Americans think women should be obligated to change their last names to their husbands' when they get married.
She expressed her views in her prenup, which, even for 2017, feels starkly modern. She worried that marriage would take away her freedom. "You must know my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me," she wrote.
Her views on monogamy were also subversive for the era: "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," Earhart wrote. She asked for her own private space away from the duties of marriage — "some place where I can go to be myself, now and then" — showing that perhaps she had read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, which had just been published two years earlier in 1929.
Finally, she made a demand that not every couple would be comfortable with. "I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together."