Mudgett: Amelia Earhart in VT

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(Host) This Women’s History Month, commentator Jill Mudgett has been thinking about Amelia Earhart and her Vermont connections.

(Mudgett) Amelia Earhart’s March 7, 1935 visit to Vermont attracted the excited attention of Vermonters and the Vermont media, though it was not Earhart’s first trip to the state. She’d previously made several airplane stops in towns from White River Junction to St. Albans. She’d stopped in Burlington twice during the previous year, and on one of those occasions had been awarded the key to the city by Burlington’s mayor.

Earhart was in Vermont in 1935 to support increased aviation in the region and to captivate crowds with details of the flight from Hawaii to California that she had completed two months earlier.

Earhart had a personal Vermont connection through a friendship with Norwich University President Porter Adams, a colorful guy with strong ties to the nascent aviation industry in the U.S. Adams had known Earhart since the 1920s, and before coming to Norwich had served as president of the National Aeronautic Association in D.C., where he worked to promote the flights of Charles Lindbergh and others.

Perhaps it was through the Aeronautic Association that Earhart became acquainted with Adams ‘s secretary, a woman named Sue Shorter. When Adams and Shorter were married in 1931, Earhart served as their matron of honor. Earhart was often described as a tomboy, but she was a fashion-forward one. “Amelia Earhart in Beige and Brown” announced the Associated Press report of the dress, hat and gloves that Earhart wore to the ceremony.

At the time, Earhart was a newlywed herself, having married publisher George Putnam earlier that same year in a ceremony that included a now-famous wedding morning note to the groom in which she restated her need for time spent alone, and vowed that she did not expect marital fidelity from either partner.

Porter Adams’s wedding to Sue Shorter was his third – the first one had involved what was later described as a “sensational elopement” in which Adams and his bride were chased by the bride’s disapproving mother. So it’s safe to say that as exciting as it must have been to have Earhart in his wedding party, Adams was no stranger to wedding day thrills.

Porter and Sue Adams stayed in touch with Earhart, sending telegrams with messages like “CONGRATULATIONS AND BEST LOVE = SUE AND PORTER.” after successful flights.

Earhart’s friendship with Adams explains why, on that visit to Vermont in March of ‘35, she spoke to the cadets at Norwich University in addition to speaking at the Statehouse.

Two years later Earhart, navigator Fred Noonan, and her plane disappeared somewhere over the Pacific. Back in Vermont Porter Adams carried on the flyer’s legacy with his spirit of adventure and love of technology. The same summer that Earhart’s plane vanished, President Adams was on the streets of Northfield, demonstrating his new three-speed bicycle to envious boys in the village. And once classes resumed that fall, Adams would take the steps necessary to establish the aeronautics program that was a part of Norwich University until 1960.

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