Amelia Earhart never wanted to be known by any other name.
The New York Times recently launched a project, the Mrs. Files, which will examine the roles and meanings of honorifics in weekly installments. And in its first installment, the Times looks at its own past on the subject, by reflecting on how it once referred to Earhart in articles.
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In 1932, she wrote to the paper directly on the matter. “Despite the mild expression of my wishes … I am constantly referred to as ‘Mrs. Putnam’ when the Times mentions me in its column,” she said.
Earhart then admits that she doesn’t have a “principle to uphold in asking that I be called by my professional name in print,” but rather, that she is making the request because “it is for many reasons more convenient … to be simply ‘Amelia Earhart.'”
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The first post in this new series notes that the Times often referred to women by their married names — and still does, to this day. It wasn’t until 1986 that it even began using the title “Ms.” Now, through this project, the paper will be asking and attempting to answer questions such as: “What do honorifics mean for us as a society? And how do they help women shape their identity in the world?”
As Earhart showed, they can mean a great deal.