15 May: Launch of the Sky Girls

Ellen Church became the first ever airline stewardess on May 15th, 1930 – when she took to the skies with a Boeing Air Transport flight from Oakland, California to Chicago. 

A licensed airplane pilot, she’d approached the airline to inquire about flying planes, but, when she was told that in fact they didn’t employ women at all, she suggested that they put registered nurses like herself aboard to care for the passengers – and was hired to recruit and train seven additional women for the role. Candidates needed to be no taller than 5 feet, 4 inches; not more than 25 years old… and single. Their salary was $125.00 per month.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal the seemingly never-ending list of safety responsibilities given to this first generation of ‘Sky Girls’; unpick the sexist recruitment policies underpinning their employment; and discover some of the most sexualised ad-campaigns of all time…

Further Reading:

• ‘Flight Attendants of History: How the First Stewardess Got Her Job’ (Time, 2015): https://time.com/3847732/first-stewardess-ellen-church/

• ‘Shaking up a cocktail, tucking passengers into bed and calming nervous flyers: Fascinating vintage photos reveal life in the sky for the first air hostesses of the 1930’s’ (Mail Online, 2015): https://rb.gy/h01wa

• ‘Southwest Airlines’ – commercial circa 1972: