The First Airline Stewardesses Were Required To Be?
Answer: Registered Nurses
In 1930, Ellen Church applied for a job at Boeing as a pilot. In a single interview, she changed the course of aviation history. Church was a registered nurse and pilot, but given the social mores of the time, she was turned down for the position. The interviewing manager of the San Francisco Boeing Air Transport (BAT) office, Steve Stimpson, passed along a suggestion of hers, however, that Boeing should put registered nurses aboard planes to help calm the public’s fear of flying.
Boeing Air Transport (BAT) liked the idea and reached back out to Church, hiring her as their head stewardess (making her the first female flight attendant in the process) and tasking her with hiring other nurses to serve as Boeing stewardesses. Other airlines quickly followed Boeing’s lead, also hiring their own army of registered nurses as flight attendants.
The work was difficult, as they not only performed current airline stewardess duties (like attending to passengers, serving food and drink, and so forth), but also helped refuel the planes, load luggage, and helped push airplanes back into the hangar at the end of the night. Despite how hard the work was compared with, say, clerical work, women flocked to apply for the job. Not only was it seen as glamorous, but it offered excellent pay—stewardesses were paid $125 a month (equivalent to ~$1,700 adjusted for inflation), which was more than women could earn in almost any other industry at the time.
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