70 years of service in the skies

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the first female flight attendants. Boeing Air Transport, forerunner of United Air Lines, hired the first women attendants.

The thinking, in part: "Female stewards" would reassure passengers of the safety of air travel, still a novel mode of transport for many.

At the time, stewardesses earned between $110 and $125 per month (their male counterparts didn't come along until the early 1970s), and some airlines required women to resign when they married or turned 32.

In addition to serving meals, which might include cold chicken, apples, and sandwiches, they wound the clocks in the cabin and made sure the wicker passenger seats were securely bolted to the floor.

Today's flight attendants come from a range of backgrounds and undergo exhaustive training in handling emergencies. Salaries run to about $42,000 for senior crewmembers on major carriers.

Airlines originally preferred hiring nurses. They believed nurses led a disciplined life that would lend itself to the rigors of airline travel.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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