From the moment the first stewardess took flight in 1930, flight attendants were glamorous icons of femininity. For decades, airlines hired only young, attractive, unmarried, white women. They marketed passenger service aloft as an essentially feminine exercise in exuding charm, looking fabulous, and providing comfort. The actual work that flight attendants did—ensuring passenger safety, assuaging fears, serving food and drinks, all while conforming to airlines’ strict rules about appearance—was supposed to appear effortless. The better stewardesses performed by airline standards, the more hidden were their skills and labor. Yet today flight attendants are acknowledged safety experts; they have their own unions. Gone are the marriage bans, the mandates to retire by thirty-two. Femininity in Flight traces the evolution of flight attendants' glamorized image as ideal women and their activism as trade unionists and feminists.
"[Femininity in Flight] combines all the strengths of a scholarly monograph—extensive archival research, a solid historiographical framework—with the kind of stylish layout and eye-catching illustration more common in books for the general reader. And Barry writes with clarity and wit. She tells a complicated story, but engrossingly.” Joshua Zeitz , American Heritage
“Femininity in Flight makes a significant contribution to our understanding of labor feminism, joining a body of work that challenges the notion that feminism was essentially a white middle-class movement. . . . A great read; it will keep you enlightened and entertained through even a lengthy flight delay.” Nan Enstad, Labor History