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Wed Jan 2, 2013, 07:49 PM

Amelia Earhart's Surprisingly Modern Prenup

The publisher George Palmer Putnam proposed to Amelia Earhart six times before she agreed to marry him. First, she served him a letter detailing “some things which should be writ before we are married.” She would not be faithful: “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,” Earhart wrote. She would not quit flying: “Please let us not interfere with the others’ work or play.” And she would not commit to forever: “I must exact a cruel promise and that is you will let me go in a year if we find no happiness together.” They married on Feb. 7, 1931.

I stumbled upon Earhart’s prenup last week, nestled in Purdue’s online library of her letters. I posted it to my Tumblr. Hundreds of women approved. Earhart’s prenup has been quoted before, but it seems to have struck a chord at this particular point in relationship history. Lori Adelman of Feministing called it “a pretty darn modern vision of marriage.” At the Frisky, Amelia McDonell-Parry also praised Earhart’s “incredibly modern view,” including “expressing her weariness of the institution itself, and then laying out her expectations for such a union, which include a willingness to be monogam-ish … and a need for privacy and respect for her career aspirations.”

Earhart wrote her views on marriage over 80 years ago, but it speaks to our contemporary ambivalence about the institution. The marriage rate among adults in the U.S. has dropped steadily over the past 50 years, from 72 percent in 1960 to 51 percent in 2010. The average American now marries at the tail end of his or her 20s, not the beginning. (Earhart married at 33, when the average age for a woman’s first marriage was 21.) But though 39 percent of Americans feel “marriage is becoming obsolete,” most of us still say we would “like to marry someday.” There are those of us who yearn for our casual relationships to turn into marital commitments, and others who break after years of sworn spinster or bachelorhood. And yet we remain wary of the legal hassles, entrenched gender inequalities, and lingering social expectations that accompany the marriage contract.

So like Earhart, we attempt to assert our individuality even as we agree to tether ourselves to a pair. We all sign the same papers, then proclaim our marriages will be different. Like Liz Lemon, we protest about the absurdity of the thing that we are doing (or as one woman wrote in response to Earhart’s letter, “My prenup with Seth just says ‘hot dogs,’ written on a napkin”). And we stage indie ceremonies to avoid the conservative trappings of the traditional package.


Kind of interesting.

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Reply Amelia Earhart's Surprisingly Modern Prenup (Original post)
ismnotwasm Jan 2013 OP
NYC_SKP Jan 2013 #1
ismnotwasm Jan 2013 #2
seabeyond Jan 2013 #3

Response to ismnotwasm (Original post)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 08:00 PM

1. Her letter to her male counterpart (it's hard to even call him a lover) are frank and honest.


I read about this a week or two ago, and her words are brutally honest and do not portray what one might call a great deal of passion or commitment.

Rather, it seems very much like an "understanding" she's willing to enter into, and somewhat hesitantly, it seems to me.

Very interesting, indeed!


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Response to NYC_SKP (Reply #1)

Wed Jan 2, 2013, 10:59 PM

2. Perhaps it was this

You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me,” she told Putnam. “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.”

But you're right, she almost seems puzzled.

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Response to ismnotwasm (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:53 PM

3. i know. love it. thanks for this. real interesting. nt


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