Vintage: First Female Flight Attendants (1930s)

Vintage: First Female Flight Attendants (1930s)


The first female flight attendant was a 25-year-old registered nurse named Ellen Church. Hired by United Airlines in 1930, she also first envisioned nurses on aircraft. Other airlines followed suit, hiring nurses to serve as flight attendants, then called “stewardesses” or “air hostesses”, on most of their flights. In the United States, the job was one of only a few in the 1930s to permit women, which, coupled with the Great Depression, led to large numbers of applicants for the few positions available. Two thousand women applied for just 43 positions offered by Transcontinental and Western Airlines in December 1935.

Female flight attendants rapidly replaced male ones, and by 1936, they had all but taken over the role. They were selected not only for their knowledge but also for their characteristics. A 1936 New York Times article described the requirements: The girls who qualify for hostesses must be petite; weight 100 to 118 pounds; height 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches; age 20 to 26 years. Add to that the rigid physical examination each must undergo four times every year, and you are assured of the bloom that goes with perfect health.

An air hostess, ca. 1930s

An air hostess, ca. 1930s

First female flight attendants of United Airlines, all of whom were nurses, 1930

First female flight attendants of United Airlines, all of whom were nurses, 1930

Airplane meal service, 1939

Airplane meal service, 1939

Trans Canada Air Line (now Air Canada) introduces their first flight attendant, 1938

Trans Canada Air Line (now Air Canada) introduces their first flight attendant, 1938

Transcontinental and Western Air stewardess in the first regular passenger flights between New York and Los Angeles, October 25, 1930

Transcontinental and Western Air stewardess in the first regular passenger flights between New York and Los Angeles, October 25, 1930

Transcontinental and Western Air stewardess, 1937

Transcontinental and Western Air stewardess, 1937

TWA flight attendants, 1938

TWA flight attendants, 1938

United Airline stewardess, ca. 1930s

United Airline stewardess, ca. 1930s

United Airline stewardess, ca. 1935-36

United Airline stewardess, ca. 1935-36

American Airways, 1933

American Airways, 1933

Lucile Garner Grant, the first stewardess in Canadian airline history, who joined Trans Canada Airlines on July 1, 1938

Lucile Garner Grant, the first stewardess in Canadian airline history, who joined Trans Canada Airlines on July 1, 1938

Lucile Grant and Pat Ecclestone became Air Canada's first two air hostesses, July 1938

Lucile Grant and Pat Ecclestone became Air Canada’s first two air hostesses, July 1938

Stewardess Clara Johnson with Roscoe Turner's Boeing 247D, 25 March 1935

Stewardess Clara Johnson with Roscoe Turner’s Boeing 247D, 25 March 1935


Comments

comments