You must know again my reluctance to marry

In May of 1932, 34-year-old pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean following a 14 hour, 56 minute flight from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B—just one of many aviation records that she broke during a lifetime fuelled by ambition. Earhart was fiercely independent and wanted nothing to block her life’s path, marriage included. A year before that historic flight, on the morning of their wedding, she wrote this letter to her publicist and fiancé, George Putnam—whom she loved dearly—and reiterated her “reluctance to marry.” He later called it “brutal in its frankness but beautiful in its honesty.”

The marriage was a happy one, but brief. Tragically, in 1937, Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Her body has never been found.

Transcript follows. 

(This letter, and many others, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note.)

The Letter


The Square House
Church Street

Dear GPP

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 most 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 midaevil code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly. If we can be honest I think the difficulties 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 others’ 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 that is 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.