1973 November 12

Airline Stewardesses Win Sweeping Discrimination Suit

 

In the case of Laffey v. Northwest, decided on this day, stewardesses employed by Northwest Airlines won a sweeping ruling regarding sex discrimination over issues related to unequal pay, the lack of promotions, unequal benefits compared to male employees, and weight monitoring for stewardesses. The job of stewardess was a separate all-female job category, and women were forced to retire in their early 30s, not allowed to be married, and subject to monitoring of their weight.

Stewardesses began challenging these restrictions in the 1960s; and by the late 1970s, the separate job category of “stewardess” had been replaced by the unisex job category of “flight attendant.” See, for example, April 17, 1963, February 26, 1965, and March 10, 1973.

The old days: A 1936 article described stewardesses as “The girls who qualify for hostesses must be petite; weight 100 to 118 pounds; height 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches; age 20 to 26 years. Add to that the rigid physical examination each must undergo four times every year, and you are assured of the bloom that goes with perfect health.”

Read about the history of stewardesses: Kathleen Barry, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants (2007)

Visit Femininity in Flight web site: http://femininityinflight.com/activism.html

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