As flying boomed in the 1960s, women from across America applied for jobs as stewardesses. They were drawn to the promise of glamour, the chance to travel, and an alternative to traditional occupations like homemaking, nursing, and teaching.
But as the number of “stews” grew, so did their suspicion that the job was not as picture-perfect as the ads would have them believe. “Sky girls” had to adhere to strict weight limits at all times; gain a few extra pounds and they’d be suspended from work. They couldn’t marry or have children; their makeup, hair, and teeth had to be just so. Girdles were mandatory on the clock. And, most important, stewardesses had to resign at 32.
Eventually the stewardesses began to push back and it’s thanks in part to their trailblazing efforts that working women have gotten closer to workplace equality today. Nell McShane Wulfhart crafts a rousing narrative of female empowerment, the paradigm-shifting ’60s and ’70s, the labor movement, and the cadre of gutsy women who fought for their rights—and won.
By Nell McShane Wulfhart. Published by Anchor/Penguin Random House, 2022. Hardcover, 320 pages.