Aviation in Miami: The First 100 Years

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  SERVICE — Flight Attendants

Eastern Air Lines flight steward Robert C. Brown. Circa 1935. Photo by Claude C. Matlack. HistoryMiami. Matlack 9631-2.
Until World War II, Pan American World Airways and other international carriers hired only male flight attendants (known as stewards). These airlines, which traveled long stretches over water, believed that only able-bodied men had the strength to rescue passengers and row lifeboats in an emergency landing. By the 1950s, the availability of alternative aviation career options for men, new emergency equipment, procedures that did not rely as much on body strength and the emergence of “beautiful” stewardesses as a marketing tool led to a sharp decline in the number of stewards.

As with many U.S. industries, the Civil Rights Movement impacted the hiring practices of the aviation industry. Mohawk Airlines hired Ruth Carol Taylor, the first African American flight attendant, in 1957 and other airlines soon followed. Note the racial make-up in the pictures above of the graduating classes of Eastern Airlines flight attendants from the 1950s and the 1970s.

 Eastern flight attendants class 59-E at the Miami Springs Villa. Circa 1959. Courtesy of Eastern Airlines Retirees Association.  Eastern graduating class of flight attendants. Circa 1975. Courtesy of Eastern Airlines Retirees Association.

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