Saw an article re: the world's first stewardess recently, thought you guys & girls would be interested in seeing how much your professions changed & how it started. Not sure is this the best place for it or 'Aircraft Nostalgia'.
The pioneering flight took off 75 years ago in a Boeing 80A trimotor plane owned & operated by Boeing Air Transport (BST) from Oakland, California to Chicago, Illinois with about 12 pax. The lady in question was the late Ellen Church who overcame the odds in a business world dominated by men & at a time when aviation was a precarious activity, if a still percieved romantic one.
The story is told in the book Come Fly with US! A Global History of the Airline Hostess
written by Johanna Omelia & her husband Michael Waldock. Church had initially not wanted to be an airline hostess but a civilian pilot. From rural Iowa she had taken flying lessons in San Francisco & had any of the US's fledgling airlines accepted female pilots she would have been well on her way to the career of her choice. Unfortunately they didn't.
Instead, one day in 1929, Church was window shopping in San Fran when she saw an advert in the window of the BAT office promoting the airlines new service to Chicago & its new male stewarts (i.e. (FA's)Stewarts or 'cabin boys) had first been introduced by Britain's Daimler Airways in 1922 but BAT only introduced them in 1926 after the manager of its San Fran office, Steve Simpson served coffee to pax on a bumpy ride from Salt Lake City.
Church approached him with her new idea: if stewarts were there to keep pax calm, what better way to achieve this & show how safe BaT's planes were by having "weak & fragile women working on the flights". (Their words, not mine!!!
) Also, as the safety & well-being of the customers was of prime concern, she suggested why not insist these stewardesses were trained nurses.
Church helped Simpson recruit & train seven women & the pair drew up a manual to guide the new staff. To highlight the professionalism of the so-called Original Eight, the women were given a dark-green, double-breasted wool suit with silver buttons & a woll cap as a uniform to wear in the draughty & unheated cabins. The cape's pockets wree needed to be large enough to hold a soanner & a screwdriver to secure the pax's wicker chairs to the floor of the cabin & a railway timetable should the flight be delayed or abandoned & pax had to be found alternate ways to get to their destination.
In those days flying was a terrifying experience. Planes were flown below 10,000ft because there was no oxygen so you flew below the weather & into it. Money was made by flying post & there were only 12-15 pax on board. Applicants had to weigh less than 115lb (to permit maximum capacity for mail) & be no taller than 5ft 4in. They had to be no older than 25 & after the trial of the Original Eight-single (since during the trial one stewardesses' husband kept ringing Simpson whenever his wife's flight was delayed & she was late coming home. (typical
The new staff were paid €125 a month & were taught basic aeronautics and the physics of the aircraft they were flying in so they could explain to pax any changes in the noise of the engine or any turbulence.
One of the Original Eight, Harriet Fry Iden, who died in 1979 recalled:
"Our lavatory was very nice with hot and cold water but the toilet was a can set in a ring & a hole cut in the floor so when one opened the toilet seat, behold, open-air toilet! Soon chemical toilets made their debut. The only thing wrong with them was in rough weather and turbulence: I would often see the contents of the toilet running out into our cabin from under the door which meant a quick mop-up. That, I did not like".
For all the hardships the stewardesses had to endure it soon paid dividends. After their introduction bookings at BAT soared by 30%. Soon all other airlines were following suit.
However tragedy was about to strike this groundbreaking woman; after just 18 months working as an FA, she was grounded after a car accident. In 1964 she married but died more than a year later in a horse riding accident.
Today, anyone who flies into the towm where she grew up, Cresco, will land at the Ellen Church Field.
Bet you guys & gals are glad you're doing the job now & not then.
Here's a link for you:
(Loads of other lovely links on aviation for you to click at the top etc tracing the history & development of aviation