The world’s first flight attendant was a man. He was a German named Heinrich Kubis and he was a steward on LZ-10 Schwaben zeppelin, a rigid blimp like aircraft that began ferrying passengers in 1912.  Here’s Kubis at work:

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The first flight attendant to serve on an airplane was a 14-year-old boy named Jack Sanderson. It was 1922 and he was hired by The Daimler Airway (later part of British Airways):

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When commercial airlines took to the sky in the U.S., it was with an all-male staff.  A 19-year-old Cuban American named Amaury Sanchez was the steward for Pan American’s inaugural flight in 1928.  Pan Am maintained an all-male steward workforce for 16 years.

Unnamed steward, 1920s (source):

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Like Kubis’ suit and bow tie, Sanderson’s military-style jacket, and our anonymous steward’s white coat reveal, the steward role was taken very seriously: they played an important role in an elite world.  This would change with the democratization of air travel and the introduction of the female flight attendant during World War II.  By the ’50s, many airlines would only hire women and the occupation would become increasingly feminized and trivialized, just like the once all-male activity of cheerleading.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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