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Published: Saturday, 2/10/2001

Two strong women

They were two women from vastly different backgrounds who married famous men and became legendary figures in their own right. Their extraordinary perseverance through trouble and tragedy was made all the more remarkable by their ingenuity and boundless creativity.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Frances Octavia Smith - otherwise known as Dale Evans - lived worlds apart but shared uncommon character strengths that were magnified in reflections upon their deaths this week.

Miss Evans was a $12-a-week Texas stenographer, a young, single mother supporting a baby son, when a fluke appearance singing on a local radio station led to bigger and better things. As her singing career blossomed, Hollywood beckoned and she was ultimately cast opposite a handsome cowboy named Roy Rogers. In the movies and on television, she became the no-nonsense “Queen of the West” to his “King of the Cowboys.”

But she also was a prolific writer of books and songs, compiling almost more writing credits than acting. Among the songs she penned were the couple's “Happy Trails” theme and hits like the best-selling “The Bible Tells Me So” in 1955.

Evans died at 88, on the same day as the widow of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who was 94, would also move out from the shadow of her famous husband and into the spotlight. She gained much admiration and acclaim during a lengthy literary career.

Although born to wealth, the diminutive Mrs. Lindbergh expressed the everyday feelings and frustrations of a whole generation of wives and mothers whose lives revolved around the crazy warp of child rearing.

In other works she described the breathless aerial adventures of her husband and herself in North to the Orient, and of the terrible, unspeakable pain endured when her firstborn son was kidnapped and killed. For years, the death of the Lindbergh child was referred to as “The crime of the century.”

Over her long life, encapsulated in writings, poems, and poignant diaries, Mrs. Lindbergh won the respect and affection of millions of Americans. Like Dale Evans, she not only outlived her celebrity husband but, as some might argue, outmatched him in enduring enterprise and achievement.

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