History of Female Flight Attendants
By Kim Rahn
Can you imagine air travel with only male cabin attendants or without any attendants at all?
At the start of air travel, airlines did not have female flight attendants, who now play a major role in providing safe and comfortable air travel.
Originally, co-pilots had to take charge of checking tickets, tending to passengers and cleaning the cabin.
In 1928, Lufthansa German Airlines first adopted cabin crews for in-flight services but the crew was all male. Traditionally in Europe, men took charge of those types of services, such as stewards on passenger ships.
The first stewardess debuted in May 1930 in the United States.
Ellen Church, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Minnesota's nursing school, wanted to become a pilot. But it was not easy for a woman to get such a job those days.
She persuaded Steve Stimpson, traffic manager of Boeing Air Transport, one of United Airlines' predecessor subsidiaries, to hire her as a cabin attendant. Church convinced Stimpson that women, especially nurses, were most suitable for the job of tendering to sick passengers.
The manager hired her and also asked her to recruit seven other women for the job.
The qualifications for a female flight attendant at that time were: a nurse's certificate; height under 162 centimeters; weight under 52 kilograms; unmarried; and those aged between 20 and 26. The physical requirements were in accordance with the size of aircraft of that era, which were smaller and had a lower ceiling than today's aircraft.
The ``original eight'' stewardesses were paid $125 per month, and boarded regular transcontinental flights between San Francisco and Chicago.
It took 20 hours for a 12-seat biplane to fly the route, as the aircraft had to make 12 stopovers for fuel and meals.
Occasionally the planes had to make emergency landings in fields, injuring passengers. The nurse-turned-stewardesses were the very people that passengers most needed.
Such service from female cabin attendants was highly esteemed by passengers, and about 20 carriers in the U.S. adopted the system within two years. The trend spread to Europe, with Farman Airlines, predecessor of Air France, Swiss International Air Lines, KLM and Lufthansa subsequently hiring female flight attendants.
The uniform of female attendants at that time was that of nurses _ a white dress and hat. Airlines gradually adopted their own uniforms according to the country's culture, tradition and the carrier's characteristics.