The Great Stewardess Rebellion: How Women Launched a Workplace Revolution at 30,000 Feet

Doubleday. Apr. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780385546454. $30. SOC SCI
McShane Wulfhart’s engaging chronicle of the labor movement launched by U.S. airline stewardesses who flew the not-so-friendly skies in the 1960s and ’70s has an eye-opening anecdote on every page; even the union negotiations are entertaining and informative. She writes that the “stewardess ideal” of the midcentury golden age of air travel hid the turmoil bubbling under the industry’s surface; stewardesses—whose jobs demanded they be educated, poised, and well-groomed—soon turned into excellent faces of labor and feminist movements. Learning to question long-held misconceptions and media-inspired images of what a stewardess should be, these women forced a change in the corporate culture of airlines: They fought for professional uniforms; argued against the profession’s strict rules about weight, age, and marriage; and demanded better pay and benefits to match those of the men joining their ranks. McShane Wulfhart’s book demonstrates how the stewardesses’ labor fight affected the state of modern American employment and helped enshrine many of the workplace rights women have today.
VERDICT Recommended for readers of women’s history and histories of the airline industry, and anyone looking for an engaging and entertaining read.
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