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‘A revolution waiting to happen’: The Surprising Alliance between Stewardesses and Gloria Steinem

By Kirsten Butler in PBS American Experience

When the first widely-circulated issue of the pioneering feminist magazine, Ms., hit newsstands in July 1972, it contained a small advertisement toward the back that most readers likely disregarded. That unobtrusive listing contained big news for its intended audience: flight attendants, or stewardesses, as they were then known. The ad announced an upcoming meeting to discuss forming a group focused on gaining workplace equality and respect for their profession. Stewardesses for Women’s Rights was born later that year.

SFWR’s founders were both former Eastern Airlines flight attendants. Jan Fulsom had quit her job after a drunk passenger tore her skirt off mid-flight, and the pilot, her immediate supervisor, laughed. Sandra Jarrell was fired by Eastern for being what its requirements considered overweight. (Nearly all airlines at the time required their flight attendants be weighed regularly; attendants who exceeded a carrier’s arbitrarily set limit, were put on probation or fired altogether.) Jarrell and Fulsom had had enough of airlines’ predatory and demeaning workplace culture, and knew other flight attendants felt the same. FOR MORE

CULTURE, education, gender equity, WOMENS LIVES, womens work


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