Tag Archive for: business women

We’ve Come a Long Way, or Have We?

We’ve Come a Long Way, or Have We? by Debra H. Goldstein
When you checked out the
Happy Thanksgiving listing of the Stiletto Gang’s books (https://www.thestilettogang.com/2016/11/happy-thanksgiving.html),
did you notice the one thing they all have in common?

The books and poems are
written by strong women and whether dramatic or comedic, they feature women
capable of finding solutions. The women writing these books and appearing on
the pages can often be characterized as steel magnolias. Their independence,
career choices, relationships, ultimately are of their own choosing.

What a change in society our
style of writing reflects. Historically, women writers often tended to use
initials or male names rather than their own names because they felt books by
men would sell better. Think P.L. Travers, S.E. Hinton, P.D. James, J.D. Robb,
or V.K. Andrews, to name a few. They also had to conform their writing to
certain norms.

In Little Women, Jo could be a tomboy, but in the end, she still had
to wear dresses and bonnets.

Books written in the 1940’s by Janet Lambert and
others depicted women in supportive home roles or confined to becoming teachers,
stewardesses, or nurses. Even young adult mysteries like Nancy Drew and Cherry
Ames limited the roles and interaction of their main characters. While they
might step outside their norms because of curiosity or needed action to solve a
crime, they usually ended the books with a jovial attitude statement looking
forward to their next adventures.

Recently, I read Silver Wings for Vicki, the first in
the Vicki Barr stewardess series by Helen Wells. I was struck by the contrast
between the eagerness of the young women wanting to fly for adventure and their
understanding of the responsibilities their job entailed. More than being a
waitress in the sky, stewardesses had to be “able to handle all sorts of
people, tactfully, in any sort of situation.” (page 18) They needed to know
health, hygiene, psychology of dealing with people, nutrition and cooking to prepare
and serve meals, languages, and geography. They also had to be

pleasant rather
than aggressive, resourceful, able to wear a uniform with poise, and capable of
representing the airline as window dressing when necessary.

What really caught my
attention was when during her interview, Vicki asks if a stewardess must really
be beautiful and is told: “Real beauty isn’t necessary, but you have to be nice
to look at: well-groomed, pleasant, and not too tall or heavy. After all, a
plane must carry the biggest payload possible, and the heavier the crew the
less paying weight we can carry.” The interviewer then explains why a five foot
eight woman whose weight is proportionate to her height would be unacceptable,
“But the airlines do recognize that American girls are growing taller, and
we’re gradually raising the height and weight limits. Besides, …bigger, roomier
planes are coming into use, and with bigger cabins there’ll be space for taller

Reading this book made me
appreciate, as the Virginia Slims slogan went, “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.”
Or, have we?