Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am

Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780358251408. $28. HIST
Pan Am once represented the gold standard for jetsetters, largely due to the women that worked for it. In order to meet the requirements for the seemingly glamorous job, hopeful applicants were willing to endure strict height and weight requirements. In this latest work, Cooke (The Other Side of Paradise) chronicles the rise, and eventual downfall, of Pan Am through the personal stories of the women who were the face of the company: stewardesses. This account is also an engaging work of cultural history. Cooke notes how the job of stewardess, though still rooted in sexism, paradoxically allowed women to find freedom, as they made their own money, lived independently, traveled abroad, and explored countries on their own. The author documents Pan Am’s involvement in various U.S. military zones, bringing soldiers to and from the frontlines, and how air travel became political during times of diplomatic crisis. Cooke also uncovers how former stewardesses have stayed in touch throughout the years, effectively bringing all the aspects of their careers, personal lives, and lasting friendships to life.
VERDICT This engrossing account, which reads like a novel, offers a combination of riveting personal stories and little-known history, and will draw in readers from the first page. A must-read.
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