Kathleen Winters, a pilot and aviation historian, noticed a glaring gap in the library of books on Charles and Anne Lindbergh: There was very little written about their groundbreaking and grueling survey flights.
For Winters, that oversight on the part of previous biographers was like a parting of clouds leading to an open landing strip. It led to her debut book, "Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air," which chronicles the white-knuckle dangers of those 1930s flights from the perspective of Anne, who served as her husband's navigator and radio operator in their two-person plane.
"They had only one engine on the plane. If they had to land, they'd be in the wilderness with no support," Winters said in a phone interview Monday from her St. Paul Park home. "They had to carry spare parts and do all the maintenance on the plane. They were often in areas that had never seen an airplane."
If you go
What: Brown Bag Summer Speakers' Series
Who: Kathleen Winters, author of "Anne Morrow Lindbergh: First Lady of the Air"
When: Noon Monday
Where: Brainerd Public Library
Admission: Free. Visitors are welcome to bring a brown-bag lunch.
Winters, who will speak at noon Monday at the Brainerd Public Library, aimed to convey the life-or-death aspect of early aviation in the book.
"The plane was built to Charles' specifications. It was state of the art. But back then, state of the art was primitive. People were flying across oceans at night with very little instrumentation. They had no navigational tools other than sextants and a compass. Looking back, I don't know how they did it, and I think most pilots would feel that way."
The Lindberghs planned meticulously before launching their survey flights to the Orient via Canada and Africa via the North Atlantic. Likewise, Winters did a lot of research before getting to the fun of writing.
"This is the first extensive research I had done," said Winters, who has contributed to several aviation magazines. "There's no getting around it. It is tedious, sitting at a table and looking at box after box of materials."
Winters' research - conducted at the historical societies of Morrison County, Minnesota, Missouri and Yale - wasn't all about flying, though. The author also developed a good picture of the late Anne. Winters never met Anne - who, after her flying career, became a best-selling author and diarist - but she felt a kinship toward her.
"Other writers presented a skewed characterization of Anne," Winters said. "She was a strong woman who enjoyed her life of adventure. She was an early feminist - she wanted to be good in everything she did and she struggled with these conflicting roles. She was very much a woman ahead of her times.
"I, too, had to struggle with conflicting roles in my younger years, especially when I had a young child. I had to put aside aviation to concentrate on working and family matters. I particularly understood Anne's struggle in a man's world of aviation. She mentioned several times she felt alienated being a woman in a man's world, being surrounded by the technical aspects of the flights."
"First Lady of the Air," published last year by Palgrave Macmillan, has particularly drawn interest in the areas the Lindberghs called home: New York, the New England states, Michigan and, of course, Minnesota - Charles spent his childhood in Little Falls.
Winters, currently working on a second aviation book, finds the publicity grind to be an enjoyable brand of hard work.
"I love talking to audiences about flying," she said. "And I believe this book has appealed to a universal audience because it talks about women's issues, men, history and adventure."
On the Web:
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5863.
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