The Golden Age of Flight Attendants

A new book documents the evolution of stewardesses from registered nurses to starlets in the sky

1 Skygirls.jpg
In 1938, TWA stewardesses were honored for each having completed a quarter-million miles or more of flying. Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum

Air & Space contributing editor Stephan Wilkinson and Bruce McAllister have just published Skygirls: A Photographic History of the Airline Stewardess, with more than 250 color and black-and-white photographs documenting flight attendants from the early days of airline travel to the glory days of the trans-ocean flying boats and the first postwar intercontinental luxury airliners. The book follows both American and foreign stewardesses through the jet-setting days of the Sixties and into the Seventies.

Skygirls pays tribute to a profession that was once admired and envied, while at the same time being (in the days before civil rights legislation and shifting societal standards) one of the most sexist careers a young woman could pursue.

Lufthansa

(Deutsche Lufthansa AG)

This 1935 Lufthansa airline advertisement featured a steward helping a passenger board a Junkers transport.

Boeing 80A

None
(Seattle Museum of Flight)

In 1936 passengers on Boeing 80A aircraft had their choice of coffee, tea or milk, along with a box lunch containing a ham sandwich, a pickle, pound cake and a piece of fruit. All of the stewardesses were registered nurses.

DC-3 Skysleeper

None
(Bruce McAllister Collection)

Passengers disembark from a TWA Douglas DC-3 Skysleeper flight in 1937. This DC-3 cabin configuration included eight berths and nine reclining lounge seats with full meal service.

Douglas DC-3

None
(State Archives of Florida)

Basil L. Rowe, a Pan American Airways chief pilot, emerged from a Douglas DC-3 in 1946. Rowe logged some 35,000 hours during his career.

TWA

(Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum)

A 1939 TWA timetable advertised the airline’s coast-to-coast air service.

BOAC Flight

(Bruce McAllister Collection)

A six-week-old lion cub named "Okene" gets a snack on arrival at London aboard a BOAC flight from Nigeria in 1955. Stewardess Jill Chapman, an animal specialist, accompanied the cub on the flight.

American Airlines

(American Airlines)

In the 1960s, American Airlines stewardesses started wearing red, white, and blue dresses with matching belts and hairbows. The new attire replaced the traditional uniform that dated back to the mid 1930s.