The following slides were prepared by United Air Lines for the 15th anniversary of stewardess service in May 1945 and were donated to the United Airlines Historical Foundation. The accompanying script was discovered recently in the Ellen Church Marshall Collection that is housed in the United archive repository at the company’s Operations Center in suburban Chicago.
The15th anniversary celebration occurred around the United route system. Captain Ellen Church, whose suggestion helped pioneer a worldwide profession of safety and service professionals in 1930, participated in the celebration. She was a guest speaker at selected cities and the images shown and corresponding script were used upon those occasions. The introduction to the slide presentation was delivered by United’s District Traffic Manager and Ellen Church delivered information about each slide.
In 1945 air travel was still considered a new mode of transportation in the United States. When many United stewardesses enlisted in the war effort, the requirement that stewardesses be registered nurses was dropped. The 15th anniversary promotional tour served not only to honor the profession but to encourage new recruits.
“Women With Wings”
Fifteen years ago - - on May 15, 1930, to be exact – a new career for women was born.
On that day Ellen Church, now a Captain in the Army Nurse Corps – Air Evacuation Service, put into practical application an idea, conceived by her, which since has proved an outstanding feature in the development of commercial aviation. We refer, of course, to airline stewardess service.
Miss Church, a registered nurse and private flier, decided she could combine those talents by becoming the world’s first air stewardess. She sold the idea to United Air Lines – and the thing was started as a trial. So quickly did it “take” that other girls had to be employed almost immediately.
Since that day 15 years ago, virtually every airline in the United States, plus 12 foreign lines, has adopted stewardess service. Today, more than 1,000 sky girls are flying the nation’s airways – about 300 of them with United Air Lines alone – and hundreds of former stewardesses now are serving in the armed forces.
We would like to take you from the past to the present of stewardess service by means of an imaginary flight through the years, riding with these sky girls and momentarily visiting with them in their spare time. We would like to tell you of the essential wartime work they are doing today – of how they are helping to move record planeloads of essential civilian and military air travelers and of how their “sisters with wings” are serving in the Army and Navy Nurse Corps.
Meet Miss Betty Battjes (pronounced Batches), typical airline stewardess, graduate of Northwestern University, now flying the Chicago-Denver-Cheyenne section of United Air Lines’ coast-to-coast route…
...in a 21 passenger Douglas DC-3 Mainliner such as this. If Betty is still with United after the war – and we have heard that a certain Marine Corps officer might make that impossible – she will fly coast to coast…
...in a DC-4, four-engined, 50 passenger, five-mile-per-minute Mainliner such as this. However, we're getting ahead of our story. Let’s go back in history to the month of May 1930 and have a look at the start of stewardess service - to the world’s first sky girls...
... United's original eight stewardesses - shown as they posed by the door of a Boeing 80-A, such as they rode on the San Francisco-Chicago section of United's transcontinental airway. Standing just at the left of the door is Miss Ellen Church, who started the whole idea. The rest of the airplane...
..looked like this. It was a 14-passenger tri-motored plane which cruised at around 110 miles an hour. Coast-to-coast travel time then was 27-3/4 hours. Today the continent is flown just overnight.
Here one of the original stewardesses points out the scenery to a youthful sky-traveler. Notice that stewardess uniform, showing the influence of the nurse idea. Prior to Pearl Harbor, all United stewardesses had to be registered nurses - a requirement based on the belief that institutionally-trained girls were best suited for jobs aloft.
So popular were the original eight girls that 20 more soon were recruited. Here is a close-up of three of them. Shortly after they were employed, a number of...
...Ford tri-motored planes were placed in service. These carried 12 passengers at approximately 110 miles per hour. The interior...
...such as this was a far cry from today's luxurious Mainliners. Nevertheless, it marked a start toward air travel refinement.
In 1933 commercial air transportation was almost revolutionized by the advent of streamlined, all-metal, twin-engine Boeing 247s. This plane cruised at 171 miles per hour with 10 passengers and cargo. With its coming, the uniforms of stewardesses also were streamlined somewhat as evidenced by...
...these two stewardesses of 1933. Also with the famous 247s came...
...additional comfort for the air traveler as shown by this interior view.
Food service aloft had moved out of the lunchbox era but fried chicken still was the main item. In fact, one airline passenger of the day remarked that he ate almost enough fried chicken to make a coast-to-coast flight on his own wings!
The uniform cap became more streamlined and United became more publicity conscious as witness the arm band on the young woman at right.
Here's a similar uniform of the period in its full view version. Apparently there was no shortage of material in those days. Note the length of that skirt!
And so sky fashions changed – as did plane and service. On the tenth anniversary of stewardess service in 1940, this study in contrasts was made. Need we say the uniform on the left was the 1930 version?
Air travel continued to grow - and so did stewardess ranks. More and more girls, desirous of "hitching their wagon to a star" so to speak, joined United and other airlines. Here is a typical group in 1940.
Meanwhile, the stewardess idea had been spreading to foreign airlines. As in this country, it proved immediately popular. This picture shows stewardesses of the Famous Dutch KLM airline...
...and this one, some of the native Mexican senoritas employed by Lineas Aereas Mexicanas, S.A. (LAMSA), a subsidiary of United Air Lines.
In the far north, this young lady and others like her fly for the Alaskan division of Pan American Airways...
...and in Canada, young women such as this fly for Trans-Canada Airlines.
In 1936, United served the first full-course meal aloft. This innovation had an extremely favorable passenger reaction, but naturally added to the duties of the airline stewardess. However, this attractive young lady seemed to enjoy her job as did...
...this stewardess shown assisting a flying family aboard a sleeper version of the DC-3. The sleeper plane brought many additional comforts such as...
...breakfast in bed at 10,000 feet while traveling at 180 miles an hour. You can't do it these days, for sleepers are "out" for the duration to permit greater payloads. After the war, berth service will be again be available.
Not the least enjoyable part of a stewardess' job is that of meeting celebrities. Before Pearl Harbor, stars of the stage, screen, radio and sports regularly traveled the nation's airways to keep engagements. Today a number of them fly the lines on War bond, U.S.O and other war-aid missions. Some of the following pictures, taken before the war, might be familiar to you because most of them ran in the nation's newspapers.
Recognize him? It's Bob Feller, famous baseball pitcher, now with the Navy. Bob is shown receiving a plaque certifying him as a member of United's 100,000 Mile Club. And do you...
...know this fellow? Some months ago he was listed as missing after being shot down in the South Pacific. They found him however, and he’s again blasting the Japanese out of the sky. You guessed it - he’s Tom Harmon, former All-American backfield star for the University of Michigan and 1940 Heisman Trophy recipient.
Here's that genial, cinema cowboy from Mexico, Leo Carrillo...
...and another personality, always very much in the news, "The Little Flower" of New York City – Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. The young lady in the center is a fellow passenger with whom the Mayor became acquainted on a flight from Portland to Chicago.
Yes, down through the years stewardesses have had lots of fun meeting interesting people and posing for news pictures. Here one of them acts as starter for the University of Michigan's relay team which flew from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1940.
Still in the celebrity category, but not of the human variety, was the famous panda, Mei-Mei (pronounced MEE-MEE), which was flown from the West Coast to Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo in 1938. The woman on the left is Mrs. Ruth Harkness, famous explorer, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she shot the leopard for that coat. And speaking of furs...
...the fur of these two small animals is worth more than $10,000! They look a little bit like rabbits, don't they? Actually, they are rare chinchillas which made a coast-to-coast trip early in 1941
Here's the old Manassas Mauler himself, Jack Dempsey, former world's heavyweight boxing champion, today serving as athletic officer for the U.S. Coast Guard.
A few minutes ago we mentioned breakfast in bed. Here's a celebrity who insisted on coffee in bed - our old friend Charlie McCarthy with his necessarily inseparable companion, Edgar Bergen.
Getting away from celebrities, let's take these stewardesses out of their airplanes for a while and see what they do in their spare time.
In 1938 this young lady, Miss Betty Clemens, was driven from her Paris music conservatory by the threat of Nazi invasion and decided to become a stewardess. When not flying, her chief recreation is music...
…and here three stewardesses change their element for fun in the water.
One of the most popular hobbies of sky girls is horseback riding. Stewardess Cecile Smith puts her pinto through his paces. Cecile was one of the queens of the Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1941. Incidentally, Cheyenne is headquarters for United's maintenance base.
Now that you've seen a bit of stewardess history, flight activities and recreations, perhaps you'd like to know where stewardesses come from and how they're trained for their work.
Let's take a typical stewardess, Dorothy Hoeger (pronounced HAYGER), and follow her from her father's farm in Iowa to the cabin of a Mainliner. Most of United's stewardesses come from rural communities and we thought the best picture to illustrate that fact was this one of Dorothy milking a cow, which she really can do. After deciding to become a stewardess, Dorothy went to Chicago and had...
...an interview with Mr. Dale Medland, United's employment manager. He sent her to see...
...Miss Lucille Schroeder, a veteran United stewardess, who determined that Dorothy had the necessary qualifications, namely two or more years of college education; height between 5 feet 2 inches and 5 feet 6 inches; age between 21 and 26; weight under 125 pounds. After the personnel department...
...made its decision to accept Miss Hoeger, she was sent to the company's medical department for a physical examination. Here she tipped the scales at a neat 118 pounds. Dorothy passed her medical examination...
...and was informed that she should report to the student stewardess school a week later. Here she was instructed in United's history and policies, airline routing, ticketing, coding, specifications of aircraft, passenger psychology and food service.
At last the great day for Dorothy's first flight as a student-stewardess arrived and she was given "on the spot" instruction during an actual flight.
At the conclusion of four weeks' study, Dorothy and her sister fledglings attended graduation exercises and were presented with their silver wings by Mr. Roy Wainwright, superintendent of stewardesses.
Within two days Dorothy joined the ranks of other United sky girls. At present she is flying the Chicago-Denver-Cheyenne run.
In talking about Miss Hoeger we mentioned that part of her requirements were two or more years of college education. As said earlier, United formerly required all its stewardesses to be registered nurses but, with the coming of war, this was eliminated because of the need for nurses in the armed forces. Pearl Harbor brought many changes to the airlines, and the stewardess department was affected as much as any other branch. For example...
…many of the girls gave up their swimming, tennis, etc., to work in victory gardens. Here’s a before picture and …
...the same garden a few weeks later. I think it's young corn.
As another war activity, stewardess Loretta Nazar (pronounced NAYZAR) sold war bonds as the first such saleswoman of the air. Before she was grounded by Cupid a year ago, Miss Nazar had sold over $200,000 worth of bonds.
After Pearl Harbor, 90 percent of United's passengers became military personnel or civilians engaged in essential war work. This picture of a Mainliner interior illustrates the point, don’t you think?
In addition to gardening during their spare time, United stewardesses frequently help out at local U.S.O.'s or Servicemen's Centers. This sailor seems to be enjoying the cake served by Kay Leasman and United's chief guard at Chicago, Ed Gregory.
This picture might lead you to believe that the young lady actually is selling newspapers. She isn't. The story behind it is that stewardess Jacqueline Vandenberg was born on Guam, and her joy was boundless when she heard that the Yanks had returned there last July.
Even while concentrating on their main job of helping to speed victory, the airlines are doing some post-war planning. United, for example, has worked with the University of Illinois flying baby chicks on a non-priority, experimental basis with the idea that such shipments will be of help in rehabilitating war-ravaged countries.
The airlines are planning passenger service details of the four-engine, 300-mile-an-hour planes which they will place in service after the war. Here, for example, is stewardess Jean Macdonald trying out an experimental buffet for the fleet of Douglas DC-4s and DC-6s which United has on order...
...and here, four of United's stewardesses are shown looking over a Douglas C-54, military version of the four-engine planes which will take to the company's routes when war conditions permit.
And the ranks of stewardesses continue to grow! This picture shows 30 brand-new stewardesses on the wing of a Mainliner, representing the largest class ever trained by the Company. A good many sky girls have entered the armed services - and then, of course, there's always Cupid, hovering around to interrupt their flying careers.
This is what frequently happens. The girls marry our pilots. Stewardess Dorothy Willis and First officer Bill McChrystal flew together as fellow crew members. Now they’re living in Seattle. She's grounded because United employs only single sky girls. He's still flying the company’s Pacific coast route, for matrimony doesn't ground a pilot!
Since the war, Cupid hasn't been as active as the Army and Navy in thinning stewardess ranks. Many of the company's sky girls, who were registered nurses, entered the armed services shortly after Pearl Harbor. Typical were Jean Bartholomew and Kay Marilley, now stationed in England as part of the Ninth Air Force - Air Evacuation Service.
Here's ex-stewardess Lt. Frances Armin who last summer flew in from the South Pacific aboard the famous C-47, "Old Miscellaneous". Lt. Armin also is in the Air Evacuation Service.
In the Navy, they also serve - as, for example, Lt. (j.g.) Mary O'Connor, who chalked up more air miles than any other woman in history as a stewardess and flight instructress for United Air Lines before she went into the armed services. Now she's heading up a Navy air evacuation school at Alameda, California.
Another former stewardess, Carole Macmillan, is serving as an Army air evacuation nurse in the European war theater.
There's plenty of work for these girls today too - in fact, there aren't enough hands for the job. Here two flight evacuation nurses are shown aboard a hospital plane flown by United Air Lines crews for the Air Transport command, bringing wounded home from the Pacific.
And here's a picture which illustrates how that blood which you give to the Red Cross is used aloft as on the ground.
Close to the battlefronts, these nurses do their part in seeing that no life is lost if medical science can possibly avoid it.
Home they come - back from combat - and with the flight nurse ever vigilant as to their welfare.
All of which leads up to the woman who started this stewardess idea 15 years ago, Captain Ellen Church.
(Source: Provided courtesy UAHF and UAL archives, copyright United Airlines)