[A] Year ago on a world-On the slight pivot of my casual conversation with George Palmer Putnam turned the whole career of Amelia Earhart
If it hadnt been for that conversation, the chances are Amelia Earhart
would still have become a constructive factor in the industry to which
she was so passionately devoted
It was in the spring of 1928 that I dropped in to see George in New York. I had always liked G.P. in a mellow mood; on this occasion he was particularly ingratiating.
He told me that Commander Byrd had recently sold is tri-motored Fokker to a wealthy woman who plans to fly the Atlantic. He didnt know her name or anything more about it, except that he believed floats were being fitted to the plane at the East Boston airport. Why not investigate?
What if its true? I asked. What then?
Well! said he. If its true, well crash the gate. Itd be amusing to manage a stunt like that, wouldnt it? Find out all you can. Locate the ship. Pump the pilots.
At the Copley Plaza in Boston, before midnight, I had cornered Wilmer
(Bill) Stultz, the pilot, and Lou (Slim) Gordon, his co-
In New York, some days later, I got in touch with him and learned that Mrs. Frederick E. Guest of London and New York, whose husband had been Secretary of State for Air in Lloyd Georges Cabinet, was the mysterious sponsor who had planned to be the first of her sex to fly the Atlantic. Her family, said Mr. Layman, was much concerned. Soon it was agreed that if I could find the right sort of girl to take her place, Mrs. Guest would yield.
On the merest hunch, when I returned to Boston, I telephoned my friend Rear Admiral Reginald K. Belknap, U.S.N., retired. Why, yes, said he, I know a young social worker who flies. Im not sure how many hours shes had, but I do know that shes deeply interested in aviation and a thoroughly fine person. Call Denison House and ask for Amelia Earhart.
Guardedly, when Miss Earhart came on the wire, I inquired whether shed like to participate in an important but hazardous flight. I had to come out with it because she had declined an interview until I stated the nature of my business. That afternoon, accompanied by Miss Marion Perkins, head worker at Denison House, she appeared at my office.
At sight I was convinced that she was qualified as a person, if not as a pilot. I asked forthwith, How would you like to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic?
Only a flicker in her cool eyes betrayed the excitement this question
must have aroused; calmly she asked for details
With intense interest I observed and appraised her as she talked. Her
resemblance to Colonel Lindbergh was so extraordinary that I couldnt resist
the impulse to ask her to remove her hat. She complied, brushing back her
naturally tousled, wind-
In the light of subsequent events
It is very kind of you to keep me informed, as far as you are able, concerning developments of the contemplated flight. As you may imagine, my suspense is great indeed.Satisfaction that I had not attempted to persuade her was reward enough then; today it is immeasurable. Her formally explicit note relieved me, but how did she herself feel about it? Had she no qualms as to the outcome? Some weeks after Mrs. Guest had retired in Amelias favor, Julie, my wife, in daily touch with our secret preparations, broached the subject and, woman to woman, urged her to back out if she felt in the slightest degree uneasy. Her reply was characteristic:
No, this is the way I look at it: My familys insured; theres only myself to think about. And when a great adventures offered youAs a rule, when gate crashers are caught in the act they are thrown out, as well they deserve to be; George and I enjoyed the unique experience of being asked, instead, to manage the performance
Fortunately for our purposes, the attention of the newspapers was focused
on the aspirations of the Diamond Queen of Broadway, Miss Mabel
Boll, whose preparations for an Atlantic hop had been more or less openly
conducted. Stultz and Gordon, the press still believed, were Byrds men
Toward noon on June 17 the Friendship cracked the ill luck which had glued her pontoons to the steps of the bay at Trepassey, Newfoundland, for more than two weeks. News of the take off was flashed to the world. That night, Allen Raymond of the New York Times, young Mills and I motored to Southampton.
the next morning we heard that the Friendship had circled the
S.S. America, a few hundred miles out, to get her bearings; silence through
That afternoon, landing a few hundred yards from the Friendship, I caught a glimpse of Amelia
Congratulations! I sang out as our dory drew near. Hows it feel to be the first woman to fly the Atlantic?
She smiled philosophically. Oh, well, maybe some day Ill try it alone.
The next morning we boarded the Friendship and fled to Southampton, where, for the first time, Amelia met Mrs. Guest, the generous woman to whom she owed the position which, thereafter strengthened by her own steady hands, she was to turn to such brilliant account.
Aboard the Mayors yacht Macon during Amelias welcome in the harbor at New York, Commander Byrd told he that he needed help in the financing of his projected expedition to the Antarctic, and urged me to join him as soon as I could cut loose from the Friendships show. After a day or two I did.
In the years that followed, with pride and sure knowledge of Amelias motivations, but with a tinge of fear as to the outcome, I watched her gain distinction in aviation.
Genuinely as a tribute to her sex rather than for her own glorification,
she accepted the honors that accrued
She had to. She was caught up in the hero racket which compelled her
to strive for increasingly dramatic records, bigger and braver feats that
automatically insured the publicity necessary to the maintenance of her
position as the foremost woman pilot in the world. She was a victim of
the era of hot aeronautics which began with Colonel Lindergh
and Admiral Byrd and which shot scientific expeditions across
continents, oceans and polar regions by dint of individual exhibition.