Stewardesses for Women's Rights

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In 1972, two Eastern Airlines flight attendants, Sandra Jarrell and Jan Fulsom, took Eastern to court on charges of discriminatory weight and grooming regulations. They decided to band together with other women and fight discrimination and sexism throughout the industry.

In March of 1973, they organized their first national conference held in New York City, hosted by Gloria Steinem. Then in June 1973, the Stern Family Fund granted the SFWR $25,000, which enabled them to open a national office in Rockefeller Center, New York City. Great progress was made in the next few years toward better working conditions, equal treatment with male co-workers, and getting hazardous cargo off passenger flights. Through their involvement with SFWR, many flight attendants became interested and active in their own unions, and thus drifted away from involvement with SFWR. Due to declining membership and lack of funding, SFWR closed its doors in the spring of 1976.

From the description of Oral histories [sound recording], 1985-1987. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 477249859

In the winter of 1972 two Eastern Airlines flight attendants, Sandra Jarrell and Jan Fulsom, took Eastern to court on charges of discriminatory weight and grooming regulations. These regulations, enforced against female flight attendants but not against their male co-workers, caused both women to leave their jobs charging that their working conditions were unreasonably difficult and stressful. These two women decided not only to fight their own airline on these specific charges, but also to band together with other women and fight discrimination and sexism throughout the industry. They circulated a newsletter proclaiming their cause among stewardesses, and responses poured in. Thus the Stewardesses for Women's Rights was born.

SFWR was at its peak of activity during the next two years. It published a newsletter ten times yearly, informing its membership of the many instances of sexist advertising, company discrimination, and health and safety hazards which affected their jobs. SFWR even wrote and produced a "counter-commercial", emphasizing the flight attendant as a professional responsible for passenger safety, rather than a glamour girl whose only job was to serve "coffee, tea or me". SFWR also served as a legal liaison, linking stewardesses who had lost their jobs through their companies' discriminatory policies to lawyers who could successfully defend them. Many stewardesses were restored to their jobs with full back pay and benefits as a result of asking SFWR for help.

Due to declining membership and lack of funding, SFWR closed its doors in the spring of 1976. Although this ending to a promising beginning seemed an ignominious defeat, SFWR had in fact made considerable progress: achieving for female flight attendants better working conditions, equal treatment with male co-workers as to weight and grooming regulations, professional advancement, and removing hazardous cargo from passenger flights.

From the description of Records, 1966-1987 (bulk 1972-1976). (New York University). WorldCat record id: 477253239

In the winter of 1972 two Eastern Airlines flight attendants, Sandra Jarrell and Jan Fulsom, took Eastern Airlines to court on charges of discriminatory weight and grooming regulations. These regulations, enforced against female flight attendants but not against their male co-workers, led both women to leave their jobs, claiming their working conditions were unreasonably stressful. Consequently, the two women joined with other flight attendants to address working conditions and discrimination within the airline industry to form Stewardesses for Women's Rights (SFWR). The response from flight attendants was immediate and substantial. The SFWR national headquarters (opened in early 1974) was at Rockefeller Center in New York City, and there were regional offices throughout the United States. The first national conference of SFWR, held in March 1973, was addressed by Gloria Steinem, who had recently founded Ms. Magazine. Steinem continued to be a strong supporter of the organization throughout its brief existence.

As part of its services, the organization published a newsletter (Stewardesses for Women's Rights) ten times yearly. In it SFWR informed its members of sexist advertising, company discrimination, and health and safety hazards in the airline industry. SFWR also wrote and produced a counter-commercial that emphasized the flight attendant as a responsible professional within the airline industry rather than a glamour girl. Also, SFWR served as a legal liaison, linking stewardesses who had been discriminated against by airline companies to lawyers who could successfully defend them. Many stewardesses were restored to their jobs with full back pay and benefits as a result of asking SFWR for help. A number of individuals were reinstated in their jobs and won considerable back pay judgments after approaching SFWR for help. SFWR also helped change discriminatory policies of airline companies. In time tensions developed within the organization; some members saw their struggle primarily in feminist terms, and others were interested in traditional labor organizing. Some left to devote their time more exclusively to union activity. Due to declining membership and lack of funding, SFWR folded in the spring of 1976.

From the guide to the Stewardesses for Women's Rights Collection, Bulk, 1972-1976, 1966-1987, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Stewardesses for Women's Rights Collection, Bulk, 1972-1976, 1966-1987 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
creatorOf Stewardesses for Women's Rights. Oral histories [sound recording], 1985-1987. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Records, 1968-1980 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
creatorOf Stewardesses for Women's Rights. Records, 1966-1987 (bulk 1972-1976). Churchill County Museum
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Eastern Airlines, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Eastern Air Lines, inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Fulsom, Jan. person
associatedWith Jarrell, Sandra. person
associatedWith Jarrell, Sandra. person
associatedWith Steinem, Gloria. person
associatedWith Transport Workers Union of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Welmers, Nan Frost person
correspondedWith Women's History Research Center corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
Subject
Sex discrimination in employment
Women in the labor movement
Flight attendants
Flight attendants--Interviews
Sex discrimination against women
Women's rights
Sex discrimination against women--United States
Airlines--Employees--Labor unions
Flight attendants--United States
Women--Employment
Occupation
Function

Corporate Body

Active 1985

Active 1987

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