Beautiful writing by famous female flyers

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women’s history month is the perfect time to read (or reread) and appreciate the work of talented women who have distinguished themselves as both aviators and authors.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906–2001), wife of pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, was a prolific author who wrote a number of aviation-inspired books. The Lindberghs married in 1929. The future published author earned her pilot’s license in 1931 and accompanied her husband on two flights around the world to chart air routes between continents. The couple flew from the United States to China in 1931 and to Europe, Africa and South America in 1933. Anne Morrow Lindbergh was awarded the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal in 1934 for her contributions to these exploratory flights. The flight to China inspired her to write her first book, From North to East.

Although her flying career lasted only a few years, she wrote many books throughout her long life – non-fiction, novels, poetry, and volumes of her diaries and letters.

From North to East

From North to East chronicles the 1931 flight of the Lindberghs to China via a northern route over Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Japan. The 1935 book was a bestseller, received critical acclaim, and won a National Book Award as “Most Distinguished General Nonfiction of 1935.”

For the flight, the couple flew a Lockheed Model 8 Sirius fitted with floats, as much of the route was above water. The plane was damaged on the Yangtze River in China and returned to the United States, along with the couple, by boat. Today you can see it at the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, D.C.

To listen! The wind

To listen! The wind is a 1938 book that focuses on the Lindberghs’ flight from Africa to South America, a leg of their 1933 exploratory flight. From North to Eastit was a bestseller and received a National Book Award.

The steep climb

The steep climb is the only aviation-themed novel by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Written in 1944, the plot follows a pregnant woman and her husband as they fly from England, cross France and cross the Alps to Italy. Early reviews were lukewarm, but the book sold well and later reviews were more generous. The New York Times wrote, “As an adventure story, it’s lively and exciting. But, it is much more than that. [It’s] charm and grace are rooted in the fabric of the author’s mind and in the fruit of his philosophy… When reading this book, we feel that we have shared the thoughts of a lively, sensitive, generous spirit .

gift from the sea

A non-aeronautical book is Lindbergh’s most famous work. gift from the sea was the best-selling non-fiction of 1955 and today it is considered “inspiring literature”. Anne wrote the book for American women of her time, with a subtitle, “A Response to the Conflicts in Our Lives.” Inspired by seashells on the beach, she explored various aspects of women’s lives in the mid-twentieth century, including youth and aging, love, marriage, and family.

As one book reviewer wrote, “The literature of flight has no more gifted collaborator than Anne Morrow Lindbergh. He was given this rare quality of spiritual insight and the ability to put it into words.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart, perhaps the most famous of the female aviators, also showed skill with the written word.  Photo courtesy of Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Amelia Earhart (1897–1937) was arguably the most renowned aviator of the golden age of flight. She was the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger in 1928, then as a pilot in 1932. Earhart set numerous aviation records (including the altitude record in a gyroplane), participated in air races and was a founding member. of the Ninety-Nine. She has written numerous newspaper articles promoting aviation and served as aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine. During her lifetime, Earhart wrote two books. A third, with her “paternity”, was compiled by her husband after he disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

20 hours. 40 Mins. : Our Flight in Friendship

A well-written narrative combining flight log entries with childhood memories, 20 hours. 40 Mins. : Our Flight in Friendship is based on Earhart’s experience as a passenger in the Friendship as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1928. Earhart included a chapter titled “Women in Aviation.”

The pleasure of it

Earhart’s second book is perhaps the best gift for young girls to inspire them to pursue aviation. In The pleasure of it, Earhart recounts how she became interested in flying, profiles other female pilots of the day, and encourages girls to pursue their dreams. The title comes from his quote: “Flying may not be easy, but the pleasure is worth the price.”

Last flight

Published posthumously after Earhart disappeared while attempting to fly around the world in 1937, Last flight was compiled by Earhart’s husband. It consists of diary entries, flight notes, and logbook entries made during the flight (and sent home) as well as recollections of people who knew Earhart.

The Lockheed Vega that crossed the Atlantic by Earhart in 1932 can be seen at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, not far from the Lindbergh’s Sirius. You can visit Earhart’s birthplace, now a museum, in Atchison, Kansas.

Beryl Markham

Beryl Markham (1902–1986) was a pioneer bush pilot in the early colonization of East Africa and the first person to fly solo, non-stop, across the Atlantic from east to west. his memoirs, west with the nightis a classic of aviation and African literature.

Markham grew up in Kenya, establishing himself as a talented horse trainer at a young age. She was taught to fly by Tom Campbell Black, a British pilot who established Kenya’s first airline and rose to prominence as a long-distance air race pilot.

Markham has transported safari clients to remote campsites, evacuated sick and injured people to hospital in Nairobi and worked with big game hunters to track game.

In 1936 Markham took off from England in a Percival Vega Gull to attempt a westward crossing of the Atlantic. She crossed the ocean safely but made a forced landing, due to fuel system problems, in Nova Scotia. She became the first person to fly from England to North America, nonstop from east to west.

west with the night

In 1942, Markham published west with the nighta memoir of her life in British East Africa, her career as a horse trainer and bush pilot, and the Atlantic flight of 1936. Although most people who knew her said that she was the last person they thought was a writer, Ernest Hemingway was impressed.

“She wrote so well, and wonderfully well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. It can write circles around all of us who consider ourselves writers…it really is a damn wonderful book.”

After devouring west with the nightlearn more about Markham’s life by reading Mary S. Lovell’s biography, Straight until morning.

Today, if you want to fly over the same wild landscapes as Markham and go in search of elephants, head to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, where she learned to fly. There it is possible to rent a plane or join a guided air safari.


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