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‘Fly With Me’ documentary profiles early flight attendants and the rights they fought for


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Within the Nineteen Fifties and ’60s, “stewardesses had been glamorous. They had been stunning. They had been poised,” says former Delta Air Traces flight attendant Casey Grant initially of a brand new documentary movie in regards to the historical past of flight attendants.

However over time, 1000’s of stewardesses, as these staff had been referred to as then, had been additionally indignant and exasperated by the working situations they needed to endure within the sky and on the bottom.

“Fly With Me,” premiering Tuesday, Feb. 20, on PBS’ “American Expertise,” tells the story of ladies employed as stewardesses when airline insurance policies dictated all the pieces from their weight to their marriage standing who went on to battle — and win — battles for equal pay, gender and race equality and office reform.

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“So lots of the ladies who turned flight attendants had been younger, bold, and adventurous,” says Sarah Colt, who directed the movie with Helen Dobrowski. “Some thought they’d do the job for 2 or three years after which observe societal norms of the ’50s and ’60s after which get married and transfer on. However the job turned way more of a profession for them.”

Early within the movie, we be taught in regards to the journey, romance and world journey that stewardess jobs promised along with the various guidelines and necessities airways positioned on ladies who landed these coveted jobs in the golden age of jet journey.

Stewardess stands in entrance of a mirror with a listing of look requirements, circa 1951. UNITED AIRLINES

“You bought this chart, and also you would not even get an interview in case your top and weight was greater than listed on that chart,” says Ann Hood, former TWA flight attendant and creator of the “Fly Lady” memoir.

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On the job, pilots — who had been all male — might be married, however stewardesses couldn’t. On the highway throughout layovers, pilots had been up in their very own resort rooms, however stewardesses needed to share. Stewardesses couldn’t put on eyeglasses and needed to retire as soon as they reached age 32 — lengthy earlier than they may put in sufficient years to safe a pension. To not point out, they had been reviewed frequently for look, with weigh-ins.

“No different job supplied as a lot freedom with such a excessive price of conformity,” says Julia Cooke, the creator of “Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Girls of Pan Am,” within the movie.

Over time, stewardesses acquired savvy. Their battle for rights in all points of the job mirrored, matched and helped push ahead what was going down within the broader ladies’s and equality rights motion.

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The movie contains virtually two hours of firsthand accounts and archival footage of all the pieces from classic airline commercials to TV information stories, in addition to feedback and insights from historians and authorized consultants. Step-by-step, “Fly With Me” takes us by vital milestones within the historical past of the flight attendant rights motion, expertly making connections to world occasions underway at every stage.

Featured flight attendants within the movie embody Patricia “Pat” Noisette Banks Edmiston, who turned one of many first Black flight attendants after submitting a lawsuit with the New York State Fee on Discrimination in 1956. It took 4 years earlier than the court docket dominated in her favor.

Barbara “Dusty” Roads, who labored for American Airways, explains how in 1965 she and fellow flight attendant Jean Montague had been first in line to file a grievance based mostly on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the primary day the Equal Employment Alternative Fee opened its Washington, D.C., workplaces.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits office discrimination on the idea of race and shade, nationwide origin, intercourse and faith. The lawsuit Roads and Montague filed claimed American Airways’ coverage that stewardesses should retire at age 32 constituted gender discrimination.

A whole bunch of different complaints from different flight attendants adopted. And three years later, the EEOC dominated that the necessary retirement age for feminine flight attendants needed to go. Quickly after, the ban on married flight attendants was out the door as effectively.

Former Northwest Airways flight attendant and union activist Mary Pat Laffey additionally shares her story of what occurred after she turned the primary feminine purser at Northwest Airways and found that the airline was paying her male counterparts extra.

Laffey filed a class-action lawsuit in 1970, and by the point the case went to trial, 70% of the Northwest Airways stewardesses had joined the lawsuit. A decide dominated in favor of the flight attendants in 1974, however Northwest appealed.

Eleven years later, the U.S. Supreme Court docket sided with the flight attendants, awarding $60 million in again pay and hanging down airline guidelines in opposition to carrying glasses. It additionally struck down the burden limitations that solely utilized to ladies.

4 stewardesses, circa 1970. SAN DIEGO AIR & SPACE MUSEUM

“Girls had been lastly allowed to have the identical advantages that the boys had,” Laffey explains. “If you happen to had been succesful, you can have a person’s job.”

Whereas that class-action go well with was making its means by the courts, flight attendants based Stewardesses for Girls’s Rights in 1972. It gained assist from Gloria Steinem and different luminaries of the ladies’s rights motion.

Airline trade advertisements of that period that attempted gaining market share, similar to one from Southwest Airways with scorching pants-wearing flight attendants and Nationwide Airways’ “Fly Me” marketing campaign, did not assist. However flight attendants and their unions continued preventing — and proceed the battle immediately — for a variety of office protections, truthful pay and equal rights.

“The ladies of ‘Fly With Me’ broke limitations by turning into flight attendants within the first place, however what’s so outstanding is that they had been additionally on the vanguard of preventing for office fairness,” Colt says. “By exploring this historical past, we present the ability of people to make change and the way gender, race and sophistication are critically intertwined.”

The place to see ‘Fly With Me’

“Fly With Me” is directed by Sarah Colt and Helen Dobrowski and is govt produced by Cameo George. The movie premieres as a part of the “American Expertise” sequence on PBS on Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 9 to 11 p.m. EST (test native listings) and also will stream on PBS.org and the PBS App.



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