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MC 398; M-129

Earhart, Amy Otis, 1869-1962. Papers of Amy Otis Earhart, 1884-1987: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Call No.: MC 398; M-129
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Earhart, Amy Otis, 1869-1962
Title: Papers of Amy Otis Earhart, 1884-1987
Date(s): 1884-1987
Quantity: 4.17 linear feet (10 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 3 folio+ folders, 6 oversize folders, 1 photograph folder, 1 folio photograph folder)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, etc., of Amy Otis Earhart, mother of aviator Amelia Earhart.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 83-M69
The papers of Amy Otis Earhart were given to the Schlesinger Library by Muriel (Earhart) Morrissey, via Jean Backus and Elgen and Marie Long, in March 1983. The papers were processed and microfilmed with funds provided by Joan R. Challinor.

Processing Information:

Processed: April 1990
By: Katherine Kraft

Conditions Governing Access:

Access. Unrestricted. Originals are closed; use microfilm M-129.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Amy Otis Earhart is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


The papers of Amelia Earhart and related collections were selected for microfilming in order to provide copies to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and because they are frequently requested by researchers.
The film was proofread by the processor and corrections made where necessary. These corrections may disrupt the sequence of frame numbers.
Blank pages have not been filmed. However, blank frames are interspersed between the separate, fragmentary groups of notes in #4 to aid the proofreader and researchers.
Dates and/or other information have been written on some items by a number of people. In organizing the material, the processor left undated material that was grouped with dated items where it was. All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
The pages of many items were numbered to aid the filmer, proofreaders, and researchers. These numbers are in square brackets.
Some of the material in the collection was difficult to film due to such problems as flimsy paper with text showing through, faded or smudged writing, faint pencil notations, or folded clippings discolored from glue or adhesive tape. The film was carefully produced to insure that these items are as legible as possible.
Letters from Muriel Earhart Morrissey to Amy Otis Earhart (#30-44) are closed during Muriel Earhart Morrissey's lifetime; they have been filmed separately.
In some letters the text on the two inside pages was written in two different directions, and in some the final lines of text and the signature are on page one. In these cases letters were filmed as they appear; pages were not turned and first pages were not refilmed.
Some enclosures referred to in letters are missing.
Letters of one or more pages with either the salutation or the signature missing, as well as portions of letters, articles, or clippings, have been marked as fragments [frag.].
Both sides of postcards were filmed.
The versos of envelopes were filmed only if they contain a return address or notes.
Some scrapbook pages had to be filmed more than once because of folded and/or multiple-paged items, such as Christmas cards, clippings, or programs.
With the exception of Amy Otis Earhart's scrapbook (#177f+), clippings (#174o-183) have been mounted by the processor for filming.
Many clippings from newspapers already on microfilm (according to Newspapers in Microform, United States, Library of Congress, 1973), were discarded after filming.
All photographs were microfilmed with the collection. They are also available on the microfilm of the Schlesinger Library photograph collection (M-54).
Some magazines, books, and other multiple-paged items were not filmed in their entirety, but only the pertinent page(s), with the title page where necessary to establish name and date of publication.
After filming, periodicals were removed to the Schlesinger Library periodical collection.
Copies of this microfilm edition of the Amelia Earhart collections (M-129) may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.
For a list of the contents of the Amelia Earhart Microfilm, see the inventory that follows. When requesting microfilmed material, please use the microfilm number (M-129) and the reel number.
  • Folders #1-18: M-129, Reel 3
  • Folders #19-29: M-129, Reel 4
  • Folders #30-44: M-129, Reel 12
  • Folders #45-59: M-129, Reel 4
  • Folders #60-74: M-129, Reel 5
  • Folders #75-89: M-129, Reel 6
  • Folders #90-114: M-129, Reel 7
  • Folders #115-131: M-129, Reel 8
  • Folders #132-150: M-129, Reel 9
  • Folders #151-173: M-129, Reel 10
  • Folders #174o-183: M-129, Reel 11
  • Preferred Citation:

    Amy Otis Earhart Papers, 1884-1987; item description, dates. MC 398, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

    Related Material:

    For additional papers about Amy Otis Earhart and Amelia Earhart in the Schlesinger Library, see additional Amy Otis Earhart Papers (A/E11), the Amelia Earhart Collection (A-129), Amelia Earhart videotapes (Vt-54), and the Clarence Strong Williams Papers (A/W722). Purdue University also has a substantial body of Amelia Earhart papers.


    Amy Otis was born in 1869, the second of six surviving children of Alfred Gideon and Amelia J. (Harres) Otis. Alfred Otis was a Kansas state judge and politician; he later became a U.S. District Court judge, and was chief warden of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Atchison, where the Otis family lived. Amelia Otis was the granddaughter of Gebhard Harres, a German settler well known for his work in the Lutheran Church.
    In 1895, after several years of courtship, Amy Otis married Edwin Stanton Earhart, a poor, young lawyer who had yet to prove himself truly worthy to the Otises' satisfaction. The Earharts moved to Kansas City, where they lived for the next ten years, during which they had two daughters: Amelia Mary (1897) and Grace Muriel (1899). Amelia, nicknamed "Millie," and Muriel, called "Pidge," spent most of each year with their Otis grandparents in Atchison. Their parents moved to Des Moines in 1907, when Edwin Stanton Earhart found legal work with the Rock Island Railroad; the girls remained in Atchison until September 1909. The following ten years were marked by a series of moves as poverty, brought on by financial mismanagement and Edwin Stanton Earhart's developing alcoholism, made life increasingly difficult. In 1915 the Earharts separated and Amy Otis Earhart moved to Chicago with her daughters. Reuniting in Kansas City in 1916, the Earharts moved to Los Angeles; they were finally divorced in 1924.
    Muriel was by then a teacher in Medford, Massachusetts; Amy Otis Earhart joined her there, while Amelia was a social worker at Denison House, a Boston settlement. In 1929, Muriel married Albert Morrissey; they had two children, David and Amy. In 1937, Amy Otis Earhart moved to North Hollywood to live with Amelia and her husband of six years, George Palmer Putnam; she remained in California for nine years, clinging to the hope that Amelia Earhart would return after her disappearance in July 1937. In 1946 Amy Otis Earhart rejoined Muriel's family in Medford, but returned to Berkeley in July 1949 to await Amelia Earhart's reappearance. One year later she moved back to Medford, where she died on October 29, 1962.
    Although sources differ as to the exact dates of the various Earhart relocations, they offer rich insights into family life and relationships. The numerous Amelia Earhart biographies include Mary S. Lovell's The Sound of Wings: The Life of Amelia Earhart (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989), Doris L. Rich's Amelia Earhart: A Biography (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989), and two by Muriel Earhart Morrissey (Courage is the Price: The Biography of Amelia Earhart, Wichita, Kan.: McCormick-Armstrong Publishing Division, 1963; and, with Carol L. Osborne, Amelia, My Courageous Sister: Biography of Amelia Earhart, Santa Clara, California: Osborne Publisher, 1987). Jean Backus has edited a collection of Amelia Earhart's letters, based on this collection before it was received by the Schlesinger Library (Letters from Amelia: An Intimate Portrait of Amelia Earhart, Boston: Beacon Press, 1982).


    The collection is arranged in three series:


    This collection had been used extensively for research both before and after its arrival at the Schlesinger Library, and was given a preliminary sorting by SL staff assistants in 1983; Amy Otis Earhart's original order, if any, was no longer apparent when final processing began.
    Most of the papers in this collection are letters to Amy Otis Earhart from relatives (including Amelia Earhart, George Palmer Putnam, and Muriel Earhart Morrissey), friends, and Amelia Earhart fans, while the rest consists of clippings, a few photographs, and some memorabilia. With the exception of Amelia Earhart's early letters (1901-1928), and a few other items, the collection is chronologically focused on the period 1928-1937, when Amelia Earhart's aviation career was at its height, and 1937-1941, the years immediately following her disappearance; the location of Amy Otis Earhart papers for 1941-1962 is unknown. Respect, admiration, and love for Amelia Earhart are reflected in many of the letters; several writers mention keeping scrapbooks of clippings about her, and many letters comment upon the importance of Amelia Earhart's courage, integrity, honesty, and femininity as qualities for other women to be proud of, and to emulate.
    Amy Otis Earhart was a prolific correspondent, often writing between ten and forty letters per day. Unfortunately, this collection contains only a few copies of her letters (most are in #26-27), described by her correspondents as thoughtful and richly descriptive. Amelia Earhart and George Palmer Putnam frequently passed letters from others on to Amy Otis Earhart; these are scattered throughout the correspondence. Series I, Photographs and family papers (#1-5), contains a few photographs of Amy Otis Earhart and of Amelia Earhart; visiting cards, wedding invitations, certificates, etc., of the Otis family (ca.1897-1939, n.d.); notes and questionnaire responses about Amelia Earhart and Earhart family life by Amy Otis Earhart and Muriel Earhart Morrissey; and papers by and about Edwin Stanton Earhart.
    Series II, Correspondence (#6-150), is divided into three subseries:
    Subseries A, Correspondence from Amelia Earhart, George Palmer Putnam and Muriel Earhart Morrissey (#6-45), contains numerous letters to Amy Otis Earhart, many discussing family news and problems. Amelia Earhart's letters fall into two groupings: 1901-1920 and 1928-1937. Amelia Earhart and her mother were together much of the time during the gap. Many of the early letters describe Amelia Earhart's doings while attending the Ogontz School (Greenfield, Pennsylvania) and war work as a volunteer nurse in Canada; many of the later ones offer her mother advice on what clothes to wear, when and where to vacation, how to spend the money Amelia Earhart is sending her, and so forth. The letters have been published, though not in their entirety, by Jean Backus. Jean Backus assigned dates to Amelia Earhart's letters, probably using the original envelopes, most of which are no longer in the collection. Amelia Earhart noted only the day of the week; using these days, the years provided by Jean Backus, and a perpetual calendar, the processor found that Jean Backus's dates are often those of the postmarks, many of which vary by several days from the dates on which the letters were written. Discrepancies are noted on individual letters, with the processor's dates given first and Jean Backus's second: e.g., [10/11/1935, published as 10/12/1935, Jean Backus]. Where the processor was unable to determine exact dates, letters were filmed in their published order; postmark dates are preceded by the initials "pm".
    Most of George Palmer Putnam's letters were written after Amelia Earhart's disappearance and concern Amy Otis Earhart's financial support, various schemes for a search for Amelia Earhart, movie rights for Amelia Earhart's life, the administration of Amelia Earhart's estate, and other such practical, external topics. There is little discussion of George Palmer Putnam's own personal life or his feelings. Included in this section are one folder each of letters to Amy Otis Earhart from George Palmer Putnam's longtime secretary, Josephine (Berger) Greer, and from his third wife, Jean-Marie Consigny Putnam.
    Muriel Earhart Morrissey's letters are closed to research during her lifetime. Topics discussed include her marriage and children, financial situation, attempts to run a private school for young children, importance of Amy Otis Earhart in her life, and family news.
    Subseries B, Correspondence, arranged alphabetically (#46-150), contains a folder for each writer of three or more letters. Amy Otis Earhart established long-distance friendships with many erstwhile strangers who wrote to offer sympathy when Amelia Earhart disappeared; she also maintained contacts with relatives, former friends and neighbors, and Amelia Earhart's friends. Most of the correspondence about the difficulties of organizing various searches for Amelia Earhart is also here (see especially #48, 93, 142-149). Physical problems of aging, including impaired hearing, broken bones, and illness are discussed by elderly friends and relatives. The relationship of the writer to Amy Otis Earhart has been noted in brackets, where known; the designation "friend" has been assigned to friends of long standing, but not to new correspondents.
    Subseries C, Correspondence, arranged chronologically (#151-165), contains no more than two letters from each correspondent, and is divided into three groups: 1) letters from family, friends, former neighbors, etc., offering congratulations, family news, condolences on Amelia Earhart's disappearance, etc.; 2) letters from the general public conveying congratulations; condolences; requests for information on Amelia Earhart, favors, souvenirs, etc.; tributes to Amelia Earhart, especially in verse; and genealogical questions; 3) letters from psychics, spiritualists, and other clairvoyants claiming knowledge of Amelia Earhart (circumstances of her demise, or of her continuing life on various islands or reefs) through visions, dreams, mediums, Ouija boards, etc. For more extensive correspondence with particularly persistent psychics with whom Amy Otis Earhart apparently corresponded, see #71-74, 103, 126.
    Series III, Amelia Earhart miscellany (#166f+-185f), contains a few writings by and lecture itineraries of Amelia Earhart; a small collection of memorabilia (awards, programs, brochures, sheet music, etc.); notes on radio broadcasts during the search for Amelia Earhart; and clippings. The clippings have been integrated with those from the Amelia Earhart Papers, A-129, mounted where necessary, and filmed chronologically within various categories (e.g., Amelia Earhart; women and aviation; etc.). Most are about Amelia Earhart, with a few about Amy Otis Earhart, Muriel Earhart Morrissey, and others. The scrapbook (#177f+) kept by Amy Otis Earhart as a record of Amelia Earhart's last flight and the search for her was dismantled for preservation and filming.
    An Index of Selected Correspondents follows the inventory and, with a few exceptions, lists friends and family represented in Series IIC. Researchers should use this index in conjunction with the names in Series IIB.


    With a few exceptions, the following correspondents have been selected from Series IIC. In general, they were relatives or friends of Amelia Earhart or Amy Otis Earhart, or colleagues of Amelia Earhart.
    See Series IIB for additional listings of correspondents by name.

    Container list

    Container List

    Additional Index Terms

    Air pilots
    Aircraft industry--California--Employees
    Family records
    Kansas--Social life and customs--20th century
    Lima (Peru)--Politics and government
    Mothers and daughters
    Parent and child
    Sheet music
    Women--Education (Secondary)--Pennsylvania
    Women in aeronautics
    World War, 1914-1918--War work--Canada
    Behnke, Irene
    Bronson, Maude
    DeCarie, Margot
    Dimity, Elmer H.
    Earhart, Amelia, 1897-1937
    Earhart, Edwin Stanton
    Mabie, Janet
    Mantz, Paul
    Morrissey, Albert
    Morrissey, Muriel Earhart
    Ninety-Nines (Organization)
    Putnam, George Palmer, 1887-1950
    Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
    Young, Bess
    Zonta International