Posted on November 16, 2022
by Mariah Fredericks
The kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. shocked the world in 1932. Mariah Fredericks, writer of the just lately launched novel The Lindbergh Nanny, joins us to debate the moments main as much as the kidnapping, and the connection between the Lindberghs and their nanny Betty Gow, who rapidly grew to become a suspect.
When her first son, Charles Lindbergh Jr., was born on June 22, 1930, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wasn’t positive she wished a nanny. Her personal mom, Elizabeth Cutter Morrow, was a dynamic lady, closely concerned in philanthropy, schooling, and her husband’s political profession. The Morrow kids had been typically left within the care of others. Within the phrases of Anne Morrow Lindbergh biographer Susan Hertog, “Betty Morrow was the right government…she organized her kids’s lives and left.”
Anne may need wished one thing totally different, however she was married to Charles Lindbergh, a person not given to staying placed on the bottom for lengthy. The Lone Eagle wished to fly and he wished Anne with him. She was not solely his spouse, however “crew,” a trusted colleague in his travels mapping potential air routes. He was not going to be held again by parenthood—and neither was she. “He needs me to reside my very own life,” she would write years later. “He needs this so passionately that it angers him when he sees something irritating it.” In 1930, the parameters of Anne’s “personal life” had been outlined by her adored and domineering husband. “The Eaglet” as Charlie was dubbed by the papers, would have a nanny.
Betty Gow, the younger Scottish lady who would change into the Lindbergh nanny, first met the well-known aviators on February 23, 1931. They interviewed her within the hallway of Anne’s dad and mom’ property, an odd selection that signifies Betty was to be allowed in—however solely up to now. She didn’t take care of Colonel Lindbergh, announcing him “no person particular.” However she preferred Anne very a lot, discovering her heat and unpretentious.
Betty was younger and comparatively inexperienced—actually when it got here to caring for the kids of the wealthy and well-known. She left the interview anticipating by no means to listen to from the Lindberghs once more. To her shock, she obtained the job the very subsequent day. For the following 12 months, the final of Charlie’s life, she was his major caregiver for lengthy stretches at a time, typically the primary particular person he referred to as for, the one particular person moreover his mom he clung to when approached by strangers.
Colonel Lindbergh believed that kids shouldn’t be hovered over, a perception that was bolstered by the Watson technique, a parenting principle in vogue on the time which firmly discouraged moms from giving “an excessive amount of love,” lest the kid change into weak and dependent. Betty recalled, “I used to be informed to not cuddle him or make him too keen on me.” At instances, she had a troublesome time with the Lindberghs’ parenting method. To strengthen the kid’s self-sufficiency, Colonel Lindbergh constructed a pen out of hen wire within the yard. He then positioned the newborn within the pen with a number of toys and left him there for hours. When he cried, Betty appealed to Anne, who stated, “Betty, there’s nothing we will do.” It’s unclear if she meant they might not defy the tactic or couldn’t defy Colonel Lindbergh.
In the summertime of 1931, the Lindberghs left on an expedition to Japan that may final three months. Anne stated, “I might have been content material to remain house and do nothing else however take care of my child. However there have been these…flights that lured us to extra adventures.” Or as Betty Gow would put it, “Oh, how she beloved her Lindy. She’d have gone anyplace and executed something for him…even depart that lovely little child behind.”
With the Lindberghs away, Betty and the newborn traveled with Anne’s dad and mom to their trip house in Maine. (“Don’t let folks fuss over him or take note of his little falls and errors, will you?” Anne wrote to her mom.) Betty anticipated to return with the Morrows at summer season’s finish. However in August, Mrs. Morrow discovered there was an outbreak of “childish paralysis” in New Jersey; finest if Betty stored Charlie in Maine. In keeping with Hertog, this left Betty alone with Charlie for 2 months. The household hadn’t supplied her cash for bills; she needed to spend her personal cash on garments when Charlie outgrew his outdated ones. She later stated she felt deserted by her rich employers.
However the resentment doesn’t appear to have lasted. Once they returned, the Lindberghs, maybe conscious that she had gone above and past, gave Betty three months off. Anne was additionally desirous to spend time together with her son. This notice from Anne encapsulates each the strain between the 2 girls, but in addition a beautiful spirit of understanding and comradery. “It’s such a pleasure to listen to him name for ‘Mummy’ as an alternative of ‘Betty!’ And [Betty] understands simply how I really feel about it and helps me.”
Tragically, the light partnership was short-lived. On March 1st, 1932, Anne and Charlie had been on the Lindberghs’ new home in Hopewell, New Jersey. Usually, they’d have returned to the Morrow property in Englewood by Tuesday morning. However Charlie had a chilly, which Anne caught. Exhausted, she referred to as Betty at Englewood and requested her to return. Collectively, the 2 girls put Charlie to mattress. It was the final time both of them would see him.
In a letter to her mom shortly after Charlie was taken, she wrote, “Mrs. Lindbergh has been very courageous about it. She’s great.” Betty quickly discovered herself a suspect. Colonel Lindbergh was adamant in his protection of his workers; Anne’s emotions are much less clear. When Lindbergh’s mom wrote an appreciative notice to Betty, Anne thanked her saying, “It got here simply on the proper time for she has had a lot grilling and criticism and is such a loyal lady.” When Charlie’s physique was discovered, Betty was requested to make the identification. It’s comprehensible that the police wished to guard the mom, who was pregnant together with her second little one. Nevertheless it should have been a shattering expertise for the younger lady who cared a lot for Charlie. Betty labored intermittently for the household after that, however she quickly returned to Scotland, solely coming again to America in 1935 to testify on the Hauptmann trial.
It appears inconceivable now that the Lindberghs ever suspected Betty of working with the abductors—however it wasn’t to her. In 1993, on the age of 88, she was interviewed by Lindbergh biographer A. Scott Berg. He informed her that Mrs. Lindbergh despatched her regards. At which level, “she simply burst into tears.” After returning to Scotland, Betty had despatched a letter to the Lindberghs. They by no means replied. For many years, she believed they hated her and blamed her for Charlie’s demise.
The Lindberghs, in fact, obtained 1000’s of letters. They moved ceaselessly, and there may be each probability that Betty’s letter by no means reached them. One may anticipate silence from the notoriously “unsentimental” Colonel Lindbergh. However I do marvel how a girl as exquisitely delicate and perceptive as Anne Morrow Lindbergh was might have failed to know that the younger lady who cared for her little one, who beloved him dearly, would have wanted to listen to from his mom these easy phrases: it wasn’t your fault.
Mariah Fredericks was born, raised, and nonetheless lives in New York Metropolis. She graduated from Vassar Faculty with a level in historical past. She is the writer of the Jane Prescott thriller sequence, which has twice been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, in addition to a number of YA novels. She will be reached by means of her web site.
Tags: charles lindbergh, Historic Fiction, Lindberghs, Mariah Fredericks, The Lindbergh Nanny