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Rich, Doris L. 1920-

Rich, Doris L. 1920-

PERSONAL:

Born August 19, 1920, in Saginaw, MI; daughter of Henry George (an accountant) and Alice Mary (a homemaker) Logeman; married Stanley Rich (a foreign correspondent and foreign service officer), June 15, 1948; children: Christopher (daughter), Lawrence, Deborah Rich-Palacios. Education: American University, B.A., 1972. Politics: Independent. Religion: Roman Catholic.

ADDRESSES:

Office—2311 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Washington, DC 20008.

CAREER:

Flint Journal, Flint, MI, writer, beginning in 1941; Victory Garden, editor; American Red Cross, stationed in Honolulu, HI, and Guam, beginning in 1944; U.S. Army headquarters, Seoul, Korea, public information officer and freelance journalist and photographer, 1948-80. Teacher; taught English in Bangladesh.

MEMBER:

Authors Guild; Society of Women Geographers.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Amelia Earhart was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review.

WRITINGS:

Amelia Earhart (biography), Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1989.

Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator (biography), Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1993.

The Magnificent Moisants: Champions of Early Flight (biography), Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1998.

Jackie Cochran: Pilot in the Fastest Lane (biography), University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2007.

Contributor of chapters on Japan and East Asia and material about Hong Kong, Macao, and Thailand for Fodor travel guides, Fodor Travel Publications Inc., 1963-72; contributor of articles to magazines, including Diplomat.

ADAPTATIONS:

Amelia Earhart was adapted for television by Turner Network Television and titled Amelia Earhart: The Last Flight, starring Diane Keaton, Bruce Dern, and Rutger Hauer.

SIDELIGHTS:

Doris L. Rich was a child when aviator Amelia Earhart began making headlines for her pioneering accomplishments in the air. As a successful female flyer, Earhart was a role model for women like Rich who were growing up in the 1920s and 1930s. At that time, most women were limited to the roles of wife and mother. "Then," said Rich in an interview with Carol A. Azizian of the Flint Journal, "along comes this attractive, chic, ladylike woman who had a career. She was doing what a lot [of] us might want to do. It was a very feminist thing." Rich was devastated for a week after Earhart's probable death, when she and her plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Her interest in Earhart waned, however, as she began a family and pursued various careers overseas, while occasionally traveling back to her home country, the United States.

In 1982, Rich returned to the U.S. permanently and decided to mark her homecoming by researching the life of an American and writing a biography. After a week of thought she chose Earhart, her childhood heroine, as her subject. To investigate her subject, Rich traveled extensively, culled material from university archive sources, and interviewed members of the Ninety-Nines Inc., a female aviator corps founded by Earhart. She also read New York Times back issues for every day from 1928 to the time of the aviator's disappearance in 1937. She told Azizian: "I worked out a calendar for every day where she went for nine years. I had to check and doublecheck newspaper accounts."

Amelia Earhart avoids speculation on sensationalistic theories about Earhart's disappearance. One supposition argues that Earhart faked her death in order to provide the American government with an excuse to survey the Pacific waters for possible Japanese military installations. Instead of giving attention to such rumors, Rich focuses on Earhart's personality, her career as an aviator, and the people in her life. Such attention to her person prompted Tribune Books reviewer Lynn Van Matre to acknowledge that "Earhart emerges as a complex, controversial and fascinating flesh-and-blood woman of many facets." Among the aspects of Earhart's personal life that the author discusses is the relationship between Earhart and George Palmer Putnam, the aviator's publicist and husband. Putnam provided Earhart with fame in the late 1920s by skillfully promoting her name after she accompanied two men on a flight from Newfoundland to South Wales and kept records of their journey. Putnam published her account of the flight, and she was hailed as the first woman to "fly" the Atlantic.

As a mere passenger on the plane, Earhart did not, however, feel worthy of all of the attention that the account of the flight received. According to Rich, Earhart longed for an achievement for which she could truly take credit. The author believes that this desire prompted Earhart to become the first woman to pilot an aircraft solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Her accomplishment failed to satisfy her, however: she felt that she needed to continue setting flying records in order to remain famous. Earhart's flights were funded by numerous lecture appearances and product endorsements. These were arranged by Putnam, whom Rich portrays as a scheming publicity monger. The author writes that by the time of Earhart's final flight, the aviator could maintain her fame only by flying around the world. A successful trip would also ensure future income as several post-flight lectures were arranged. Earhart, therefore, attempted the circumnavigation despite both careless preparation of her plane and her accompanying navigator's reputation as a drinker. Twenty-two-thousand miles into the flight her plane was reported lost in the Pacific. Her presumed death prompted conjecture on the part of many who had known of her accomplishments. These stories contributed to her legendary status in the field of aviation. Azizian lauded Amelia Earhart as a "thorough and revealing" biography. According to David M. Kennedy, contributor to New York Times Book Review, Rich's book elicits the "tragic aspect of Amelia Earhart, as well as the moxie and grit of her personality and the hair-raising atmosphere of pioneering aviation."

Rich's next biography, Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator, is a study of Bessie Coleman, a Texan who earned her wings two years before Earhart and who was the first African American to obtain a pilot's license. In many ways, her story is even more dramatic than Earhart's. Coleman was born in 1892, one of thirteen children. She picked cotton and washed clothes before moving to Chicago, where she worked as a manicurist. When one of her brothers returned from France and told her that French women were allowed to fly, Coleman shared that dream with clients who included Robert Abbott, publisher of the black newspaper the Chicago Defender. He became a sponsor to enable her to take lessons in France, since no one would teach her in her own country. She began training in 1921 and secured an international license in less than one year. Upon her return to the United States, Coleman was ignored by the mainstream press. She flew in air shows and for small fairs and was the first to fly before an integrated audience, and, tragically, she died at thirty-four, the result of an airplane accident. "The portrait Rich draws of Coleman is that of a proud and uncompromising woman—one who refused to capitulate to the pressures of her time," wrote Melanie Cole in Texas Monthly.

Rich followed this book with The Magnificent Moisants: Champions of Early Flight, a biography of a pre-World War I family of fliers, and then Jackie Cochran: Pilot in the Fastest Lane. Cochran was the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic and the first to break the sound barrier. History shows that a comparison of Earhart and Cochran reveals the latter to be the superior pilot, and that her record-breaking achievements exceeded those of many of the top male pilots. Rich draws on an extensive collection of Cochran's papers and interviews with her surviving siblings. She notes that Cochran was often abrasive and manipulative in achieving her goals and that she opposed women's rights and the integration of women into the NASA astronaut program, which had a negative impact on her support. Rich also notes Cochran's further accomplishments, including flying at twice the speed of sound at the age of fifty-eight. John Carver Edwards reviewed the Cochran tribute in Library Journal, describing it as a "craftsmanlike biography of an altogether complex and controversial personality."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2007, Colleen Mondor, review of Jackie Cochran: Pilot in the Fastest Lane, p. 11.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March 1994, R.E. Bilstein, review of Queen Bess: Daredevil Aviator, p. 1152; May 1999, R.E. Blistein, review of The Magnificent Moisants: Champions of Early Flight, p. 1638.

Flint Journal, February 18, 1990, Carol A. Azizian, interview, p. H1.

Internet Bookwatch, August, 2007, review of Jackie Cochran.

Isis, March, 2000, Elizabeth A. Muenger, review of The Magnificent Moisants, p. 180.

Journal of American History, June, 1995, Wanda A. Hendricks, review of Queen Bess, p. 314.

Library Journal, March 1, 2007, John Carver Edwards, review of Jackie Cochran, p. 92.

New York Times Book Review, November 11, 1989, David M. Kennedy, review of Amelia Earhart, p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, February 12, 2007, review of Jackie Cochran, p. 76.

Texas Monthly, November, 1993, Melanie Cole, review of Queen Bess, p. 116.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 10, 1989, Lynn Van Matre, review of Amelia Earhart, p. 1.

Washington Post Book World, November 26, 1989, review of Amelia Earhart, p. 4.

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