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tv   Julia Cooke Come Fly the World  CSPAN  March 29, 2021 7:05am-8:02am EDT

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interview program "after words," katherine flowers discusses her work as an environmental justice advocate. here's a portion. >> in communities of color in particular and environmental justice communities, economic development means elected officials usually bringing in dirty plants that will poison the environment and, of course, poison the people too who are already suffering from health care disparities. it's a paradigm of destruction where they think it's okay to sacrifice these communities. and that's one of the things that we have to change. and, hopefully, you know, people can see that in the book, is how -- and that's one of the reasons i told the story that way. we need to unpack these layers. it was intentional. >> to watch this program, visit
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click on the "after words" tab to find katherine flowers' interview. >> good evening and thank you for tuning in. on behalf of mitchell kaplan and all of us at books and books in miami, florida, i welcome you to a virtual evening with julia cooke to discuss her new book, "come fly the world," a complex portrait of the adventurous lives of pan-am due war decembers -- stewardesses during aviation's golden age. julia cooke is a journalist whose personal essays have been published in time the, smithsonian, conde nast traveler, she's the author of "the other side of paradise," the daughter of a former pan-amextive, julia -- executive. she now lives in vermont from
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where she joins us today. julia is literally going to fly solo tonight for her presentation, but we'll have some time for audience questions at the end. so, please, post your questions anytime during the broadcast. you may ask the question at the bottom of the screen. i'll take a moment to remind you that you can order your copies of "come fly the world" from books and books by pressing the green button at the bottom of the screen. we appreciate each and every owner and your generous donations from dealers everywhere. now, without further ado, i'd like to welcome julia to the stage. hi, julia. >> hi, christina. >> thank you for being here. >> thank you for having me. >> i'll see you soon. >> it's a little different from the last time i was at books and books for a reading, but it's also fitting to be virtually in miami on international women's
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day. the airline began in south florida, so it feels right. i'd like to talk for a few minutes. i have one short reading that the i'll get to after introducing the book a little bit, and then i'm going to talk about my research a little bit, and then i'd love to have some questions from you guys out there. if other events have been a guide, we have a fair amount of real stewardesses or more recent flight attendants in the audience. i hope so so. i'd love to hear from from you too. what airline you worked for, what years, where you were based. it's been fun at other events to hear about that. so broadly, "come fly the world" is about the international stewardesses of pan-am. , i use the word i stew stewards intentionally because it's about the women who worked for the airline and a couple of airlines in the era in which that was the
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word that was used. in its day, pan-am was the only american airline that flew exclusively interroutes which means -- international routes which means if you flew on a pan-am plane, you were getting off in a foreign country. i think that's what was incredibly exciting for those who worked for the airline. the book is about the places that these women flew to, about the way that they moved through the world, the work culture of the airline and also the largely unseen role that the women played in the vietnam war. more specifically, "come fly the world" is about the lives of five women and their time flying. it's about how flying impacted the choices that they made, it's about how it impacted the lives that they led. it's also about the fun they had, the challenges they faced and overcame, the places they visited and what they did mostly. one reviewer of the book in an early review said that it reads
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like a novel, but it was really important to me that the book would be about real women doing real things backed up by real research and it put in the context of an incredibly tumultuous time in american history. i came to the book -- [laughter] in an interesting way. my dad worked for pan-am, but i really hadn't thought a huge amount about the airline until i was walking down the street in and chatting with my husband about pan-am, and he said, you know, maybe you should think about what's going on with pan-am now. where are these people. so i looked up the pan-am historical foundation. i hadn't really had anything to do with them prior to that, and i saw that they were hosting an event at someplace that i'd always wanted to tour, the twa terminal at jfk in new york. the pan-am terminal has been torn down, but the twa terminal
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is still standing, and it's now actually a hotel. i'd been living in new york, and i was really excited to go tour the twa terminal. i just wanted to see it. it's a beautiful, beautiful structure. i went to this event, and i met these two women who wering magnetic. they were former flight crew, they were stewardesses, they told me, not flight attendants. and i was intrigued by that correction. i thought it was telling. it seemed to me to be pinning them to an era and a job that was important and was very different from the role of flight if attendant today. so that difference i found really compelling. i was also incredibly -- i found the women magnetic. they were, they were lively, they were funny, they talked about events of geopolitics and
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global history with a sort of casual intimacy as if they'd either, you know, conferred with prime ministers or had martinis with spice. and, to be honest, some of them had. i found them fascinating, and i wanted to know exactly why they had -- how they'd become who they were. i wrote the book because the more of these women i met, i started going to pan-am historical foundation events and meeting more and more of these former stewardesses, and the more i met in that first phase of research, the more i sensed that these women were never really given their rightful place in the history of restless, world-changing women largely because the pop culture of the image that was kind of foisted upon them. they were trailblazing women whose lives really reflected the changes of the era and who also really changed the era in a lot
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of ways. and i didn't feel like that had been truly understood. i am a restless woman. i like to travel. i love traveling. i find it -- it's where i feel most comfortable. and i felt, i felt a kinship with these women, and i felt like they had rah really opened doors for me on a generational level. and i wondered why, why that the had never really been credited. so the book explains in a lot of ways why that is. in an attempt to place them where they belong in history. so i'm going to do a little bit of reading, a very short reading from the book. this is from chapter one in which readers will meet a woman named lynn. lynn is finishing up her last are year at cuny, she's going to graduate with a science degree, but she's really not loving it. not because she doesn't find the
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work interesting. she finds the work very compelling, but being in labs is not thrilling to her. she's more of an extra accelerate than that. -- extra accelerate than that. and she's intimidated by the men in the lab. she doesn't really love being the only woman or one of two women in the science labs. so she also starts to learn about the vietnam war. a boyfriend of hers at the time, and starts to get a little more politically engaged. her last year of college she goes to rome, and when she gets to rome, it's like her world explodes. she decides that she wants to be out in the world. so she comes back home and has an idea that she floats to her parents. she wants to become a stewardess. and this section that i'm going to to read right now, it explains a little bit of why that was such an exciting job for her.
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working as a stewardess gave a woman the ability to see different places and also to experience who she could be against those varied backdrops. this invitation to tray out an fettered version of one's self somewhere else had appealed to many women. sadie in new york read a 1936 profile in the chicago tribune of a stewardess who had beaten out hundreds of different women for a spot on the united shuttle. lived a life of biking, swimming, roller skating and shopping, but twice a week her job took her to new york, and new york sadie was a different sort of woman. as soon as she arrived, she bought two books, one fiction, one nonfiction, she stocked her hotel room with a pound of chocolate and a half dozen apples, and shed had her meal --
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she had her meals sent up as she read. a decade earlier when air travel was raw and new, a nurse and trained pilot approached an airline executive to convince him that nurses would make better cabin crew. a nurse could more naturally reassure a nervous traveler. the passengers are relaxed reported an atlantic monthly writer. if a mere girl isn't worried, why should they be? in the mid 1930s, a stewardess had dragged two passengers, she ran 4 miles for help. front page articles celebrate her. profiles of other women and their crews, friendships and habits appeared across newspapers and mag. s. quote -- magazines. quote with: air hostess the finds life add venturous.
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indeed, saadty erickson was a model of the duality expected of stewardesses. she had social skills and self-determination, glamor and grit. the petite blond looked like a captivating french doll and was, quote, almost magnetically endowed by books, temperament and education to be outstanding in a profession that required, quote, poise and fearless capacity for action and grim courage. the next two decades consolidated the view of the job as women's work. during the second world war, women took cabin positions as men served in the military. due in part to technological advances such as the jet plane that sliced a trip across the atlantic down to 6 or 10 hours depending on tail or headwinds. airlines competed for passengers, but only so many mys
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to the new jet plane existed. prices were stabilized at $400 or $500 to cross the flick. it was too expensive to be an understood taking for anyone but the rich. each airline tried to convince it had the highest level of luxury and service, and the women became a particular selling point. and then there are a couple of pages detailing the glamour of the era, of air travel, some of the cutelies who designed uniforms for women, the gold carpet that was rolled across the tarmac, and it also tells of the contradictory danger that these stewardesses were placed in, hijackings and war flights. and then it returns a little bit to the women to conclude this section. in the united states, the cab bun of an international airplane
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was a sought after workplace for young, unmarried, mostly white women. airlines in the 1960s hired only 3-5% of africans. nurse, teacher, librarian, secretary. perks included insurance, free air travel, paid vacation and stipends on layovers. layovers in themselves were extraordinary. a decade earlier solitary international travel was rarely undertaken by a woman who could not leverage high social status to excuse her lack of chaperone, and most women had married long before their mid 20s. in the 1950s, only a third of american women were still single at age 24. the women applying for stewardess positions in the 1960s had in the 1950s been forbidden to be wear pants in high school and sometimes even in college.
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now during layovers, a stewardess could put on slacks and chaperone-free sash shay around the museums. she could wear jeans and wander through mexican markets. experience and expertise varied by airline, but having a job on any plane was a reason for a woman to roam. what was revolutionary was the lack of should in this job, the meant tuesday of called. -- meant tuesday of could. that explains a little bit of why the role was such a sought after position for the young women who applied for the job. on pan-am the requirements were physical. they had to be between 5-3 and 5-9, a certain week, and they had to be quite pretty. they were subjected to pretty excruciatingly detailed a's isments of their appearance by the interviewers. they also had to be quite smart. they were college-educated, they
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spoke two languages, so this was a pretty select group of women, people who, like lynn, whose parents may not have racketed with such -- reacted with such pleasure when they told them they were going to become airline stewardesses, people whose parents had thought that they wanted them to be more. they wanted them to pursue, perhaps, professional degrees. but for the women who took the job, they were really, you know, the world beckoned, and the opportunity to get out in it was just huge. too much of a temptation. so over the course of writing and researching this book, i learned a lot. i learned packing tips which are in the book, i learned what foods for a dinner party fly the best across the atlantic ocean and as cross the african
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continent, what do you want to bring. i've learned about how the lawsuits that stewardesses brought forth against the airlines that hired them set the legal precedent for the employment law that my generation of women enjoys. i learned about how airlines constructed the glamour of the jet age, how we -- why we consider the jet age so glamorous. some of it was constructed by the way that the airline pilots who served on pan-am, menus were designed in paris where the food was quite good. they had airline terminals and corporate headquarters that were designed by the best architects of the era. but a lot of the glamour was also about the women who wore those uniforms.
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i think that the conclusion that i came to over the course of the book was that they really didn't fit any kind of stereotyped mold. they existed in a middle ground between feminine and feminist. they were both things at once in an era in which that was not really, it was not very legible. they really did enjoy the new freedoms of the day. all of them. and that was remarkable. the conclusions that i came to, and this is what compelled me so much about them, was that they anticipated a lot of the changes that would happen much later. they anticipated a global marketplace, they were buying their shoes in rome and hose in paris and pearls in hong kong in an era in which it was only they who had access to those things from those places.
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they couldn't go to a department store in new york and buy some of the same things. they anticipate thed feminism. from my perperspective, they seemed like feminists from the second wave era. they anticipated the soft diplomacy of a much later era. they were cultural diplomats everywhere. and they, they were fascinating. so that's why it was so important to me to focus on real women. to do that, i focused on specifically five women. three women's stories formed the backbone of the book. they all meet at the end of the book for operation baby lift which was a refugee flight in 1975. one of them began her career with the u.s. army as well as
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being on these vietnam war flights. she worked at a service club in germany in the american peacetime early. so she, i'm going to show you a couple of things that the i leaned on, how i -- when i was doing my research. this is karen. in her army uniform. and these are some of the letters that karen sent me from home to her family. is so i got to look at all of her -- she sent me all of the let ors that her mom had saved from that era. these letters date from 1965 through the '70s. she sent her tons of letters. there's a huge stack right here which i found fascinating and incredible to sift through. so i got to interview karen but also see exactly what she was
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thinking and -- if not thinking, what she was telling her parents from each one of these places. which was incredible, to be able to ask her questions with about different places and, you know, what she was doing when. but also to see how she was presenting what she was doing back then. these were letters that were written in the second chapter that focuses on karen when she begin to fly and starts, you know, moving around the world. i have letters from israel, from rome, from lebanon, from hong kong, from all over the place. and some of these letters were written in the bathtubs of of hotel rooms. if you're a former flight crew in the audience, you know what i'm talking about. the women got own hotel rooms. they shared with other women, and karen would go into the bathroom and write letters home.
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and then in the last section about karen -- well, the second to last, this is the one in which the women all meet, this is karen on operation baby lift. photos that she took. she had always dreamed of becoming a writer and a journalist, and she did. she wrote about operation baby lift. this is the clip from the newspaper in 1975. and she wrote about the experience for her newspaper which kickstarted a second career for her. she both flew and wrote for a couple of years, and then she was able to quit flying to pursue writing full time. so i leaned on all of that for the personal side of things, and then the i looked at books like this book, the fall of saigon by
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david butler. it's incredible. you can see it's pretty dog-eared and post hit notes from all the ex--- post-it notes. [laughter] so to help bolster what i was hearing about, i felt very strongly that i wanted everything that i included in the book to be verified either -- i would include something only if it was told to me by two different women in the same way, that that they had the psalm memory of the same event -- same memory of the same event or if i could confirm the details that someone told me via a book like the butler book. so that's how i tried to make as sure as i could that everything in the book is completely factually accurate. of course, nothing is perfect -- [laughter] but i did the best i could. so with that, i would love to hear what some of you are thinking and if any, if there are any questions, ild love to
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hear -- i would love to hear them. christina? >> that was the fascinating. oh, my gosh. i have some questions. [laughter] there's one here from pat, and she says i used to fly years ago, and all the flight attendants i've met were really great people. was that your experience in looking forward to reading the book. >> thanks. honestly, it was. another, you know, i got a question a little bit ago which reminded me, i had a real ulterior motive when it started doing this work. i wanted to know how they had done it. they, these women, you know, one of the women that i met at the twa terminal, one of the first women, she said she never bought a return ticket home because you never know. she was so spontaneous and so interesting. they seemed of to have really
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lived their lives so fully, and their friendships were incredible. they have these bonds that are really amazing. they still travel together. they visit one another. they're god parents to each other's children. it's remarkable to look at them. and, you know, as comes from the perspective of in my early 30s, i really wanted to, i wanted to learn from them about how to get older. and i think i did learn a lot. it certainly really impacted my friendships. i invest a lot more in my women friends than i did perhaps. i think i took them more for granted, and now i i think i try a little harder and take time for trips a little more than we otherwise would have. it's hard, but we work at it. thank goodness that they were, yes, i found them, so many of
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themed had these incredible back stories and continue to live these incredible lives and were really remarkable people. >> so here's a question from katrina. and she would like to know how did the women feel about their beauty requirements in did they resent it? or saw it as a ticket to something bigger? >> almost neither. i think they just kind of took them for granted. and for the most part, the women that talked to -- that i talked to understood that they were, that they were part of the deal. what they did chafe at was when the airlines began to really oversexualize them. and pan-am never, pan-am was not that sort of -- pan-am had some ads that were a little bit sexist. of they have an ad that's in the
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book that has a picture of an airplane tail and it says grab, what is it, grab life by the tail or something. little innuendo there. [laughter] but some of the other airlines were really, really overt about it. there was the national airlines fly me campaign, braniff had an ad campaign that was an airstrip. they had their stewardesses getting on a plane wearing multiple layers, and over the course of the flight they would take off one layer of clothing in flight until they were wearing pretty scanty outfits. and, you know, on southwest they were famously wearing hot pants, and they served love potions and lo bites instead of drinks and meals. so that was what, you know, when their beauty was kind of weaponized in a way or, you know, commodified for corporate
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gain, some of them really had an issue with that. but then some of them enjoyed it in a way, you know? and again, this is not my field of expertise tease. not the focus the of the book because the book focuses on pan-am stewardesses. pan-am didn't really -- their uniforms were always pretty conservative. they're special, but they didn't show a lot of leg. they wore jackets and blouses and skirts because pan-am was flying internationally. so the sexual and cultural mores were not, they were not loosening all around the world and in all of the places that pan-am was flying to. so these outfits that were canty would not read the same way -- scanty would not read the same way in paris and tehran, for example, or new delhi. so pan-am's women were generally pretty, you know, modestly
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dressed. but on the other airlines, you know, and some of the interviews that i read, some of the women really enjoyed wearing their miniskirts, you know? they felt like it was part of an era, and they felt like finish it was brand new to be able to wear something short for yourself, to date and have sex for you and not for trying to find a husband or trying to pin someone down or whatever. it was new. and so that was one of the things that i found so compelling about not only pan-am stewardesses, but everyone, all of them that took the job. they were really, they weren't coffee, tea or me women. they were not that stereotype by any stretch the. but they didn't necessarily, they weren't prudes either. >> well, it must have been such
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a fun job. i am old enough to remember -- [laughter] wanting to be a stewardess. so here's a question from ada. when does the flight attendant job become open to men, and how did that happen? did it start in the u.s. or other countries? did it become more competitive and also became flight attendants? >> is so it had been to men until the -- open to men until the mid '60s. across all airlines they basically understood that women were going to sell more at that time, that women could become this selling feature of the airlines, and that was when they stopped hiring men. and then in '72, that was when a lawsuit was decided that a man brought against pan-am, in fact, and that changed it. is so, again, menned had to be allowed -- men had to be allowed
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to be hired from then on out. i don't think it had any impact on salaries. it just -- and, you know, some men, very few, had been being hired throughoutment -- throughout. it was never, or at least on pan-am, it wasn't explicitly statedded in company policy only to hire women, but it was pretty rare. >> so i have a question from t.k. who would like to know why did you decide on this subject, and how did you find your main interview subjects? >> so i decided on this subject of -- i think you're referring to, so the women in general because i wanted to know how they had acquired these incredibly sophisticated, incredibly knowledgeable attitudes that had so impressed me when i first met them. i began to focus more on war flights in part because i felt
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like that was such -- the most drastic contrast that you could find between the perception of the job which is that it was, you know, for flighty women who wanted to meet men and go on dates and go shopping. in reality, the reality was so far from that, and i felt like the war flights -- which were incredibly dangerous, these women were put in positions, they were flying into active war zones. they were transporting soldiers to a really dangerous war. many of those soldiers did not want to go to that war. this was when the draft was act active and still happening. so they were really fraught and truly dangerous flights. and so to me, that was, that contrast was really rich, and that's what i wanted to explore. i found the women just one after
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another. i started going to the historical foundation, then i started going to international events, the association of the former pan-am flight crew, and then, you know, when i met -- basically, you know, at these events it's really interesting, the women would come up to me and say, oh, you've got to meet so and so. she has an incredible story about whatever. and then i would meet so and so and she would, indeed, have an incredible story. and it would be amazing, take note of that, and they would all introduce me to friends of theirs. and pretty soon i realized that i wanted to find three or more women who had all worked on the same place, kind of triangulate that experience through various viewpoints. and that was when i really sent out e-mails. i had two at some point, and then i sent out e-mails to everyone i knew and said i'm looking for someone else who crewed on this flight.
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tell me, who can you find. and lo and behold, i found someone else. >> did you use the archives or anything at the university of miami? >> yeah. i spent a ton of time at the archives -- >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> they've been incredible. they were amazing at, you know, i had never done a ton of -- i'd done a little bit of archival research in graduate school, but it was not my forte. most of hi other work had been reporting -- my other work had been reporting. so there was a place that i could go to and take notes and talk to people and walk away and feel like i -- i would do some research, you know, for my previous book about youth culture. it was mostly secondary sources. it was actually all secondary sources. i don't think i went to any archives for that. so i spent some time in archives, but i really hadn't -- i was pretty green, and
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christina was very gracious. >> yeah. we're talking about the special collections at the university of miami and christina who heads the collections there. and i'm not sure, did you fly for pan-am? >> i did not. no, i was 9 when the airline are went under. >> she was asking did you fly for pan-am -- >> no. i flew on pan-am a lot -- [laughter] when i was a little kid. >> oh, my god. that's great. so i would love to know more about martinis with spies. [laughter] >> so, okay. at the end of the vietnam war -- i meaning all throughout the vietnam war these women were in and out of saigon. and saigon was, you know, rife
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with operatives, american operatives of all sorts, covert and, you know, army people and contractors and especially at the end of the war a lot of the women, a lot of the flights were through hang kong and through bangkok. and a lot of the people who were, i guess, cia agents but not necessarily overt9ly declared as such were also in those places. so the women who, you know, were spending time -- you know, you would just socialize around the pool or at the bar at the hotel and wind up meeting people. one of my main subjects told me about -- well, there's also the fact that air america was a branch of the cia. that was the cia's airline, and air america operated, i mean, the air america pilots were
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always around also. so they were just in the -- one of my main subjects told me about what she looked back on understanding that she had been taking messages for a cia agent. she had, she would socialize with him, hike, they would go -- like, they would go get a drink when she was in hong kong. either hong kong or bangkok -- in bangkok. they would have drinks, and he would say to her, hey, when you get to hong kong, go have a drink with my friend. he'll be there at so and so, and could you just let hum know that i'm going to be a little bit late doing this? i'll do this at this time, and i'll meet him here and do this. and she would go and, you know, relay the message to this other person. and looking back on it, she was like, huh. i i think, think that was not
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what i thought it was. [laughter] >> oh, my god, how amazing. so here's a question with about any stories about hijackings? >> yes. so not -- i didn't have any -- none of the women that i to profiled were on a plane that was hijacked, but one of them, tori, she got to the airport, she missed it by nothing. she got to jfk -- so for, it's a hijacking, so a little bit of context. hijackings back then, it was the golden err a of hijackings in the mid '60s. they were not d for a brief period of time they happened with incredible frequency and no fatalitieses. so they were kind of seen as a novelty. most of the time the people who, the hijackers get on the plane and make a threat and ask for the plane to go to cuba in a lot of cases. not always but sometimes -- not
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always, but sometimes, a lot of times, the manes would end up in the havana if, and they would have to stay overnight. so the passengers would be treated to a night in a hotel room and sometimes a cabaret or the tropicana, and so people almost looked forward to, for a very brief period of time, these hijackings. time magazine published an amazing relic that one should google and read, what to do when the hijacker comes, like a tongue in cheeking travel guide to havana based on being on a hijacked plane. is so this, so tori was flying in this era out of jfk, and she got to the airport and was told that, you know, she -- the flight that she was supposed to be on, she was switched, and thshuttle was an hour later to miami. and while she was in the air,
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this pilot called her into the cockpit and said you were supposed to be on flight 218, right? and she said, yes. and he said, lucky you you weren't on it, we just heard that it's just heading to havana. and she said i wish i'd been on it, because she'd always wanted to go and tour cuba. [laughter] not everyone, you know, and pretty soon the hijackings took a turn. they did become much more dangerous. >> right. >> and then no one hope for them anymore. >> at what point did stewardesses become flight attendants? >> late '70s, early '80s. once it was no longer stewards and stewardesses, they sought a more gent gender-neutral term. >> okay.
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we have a question from karen. do you disguise the women's personal lyes outside -- lives outside -- [inaudible] how they spend time during layovers? >> definitely. yeah, one of the things i found so interesting was the way that the women behaved so differently. they really wanted to do different things on the ground in these places. for example, one of the women in the book really is a very social creature. even to this day, she has an incredible network of friends. she's incredibly social. she would go, on guam, for example, she would go to the officers' club for dinner, and she would play card games all night, and they would go dancing. she loved crew parties. so that, her experience of these different places was much more
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social. if she, you know, she was a tourist but with other people. she would go always in a group. not always, but most of the time. and then another woman also named karen -- [laughter] was, she was much more of a, she really liked to do things by herself. she wanted -- she loved just walking around the different cities that she landed in. so she had these routines that she would follow in each city. and because she wanted to be a writer, she would have her note pad with her anywhere, and she would take herself out to lunch or dinner and be writing the whole time, taking notes and reading books. her experience of a place is much more, much more independent. i mean, they're both incredibly independent women, that's the wrong terminology, but her -- she was by herself. so they really, they explored different cities in different ways. and the book also does, you
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know, talk about the lives that they lived around their flights. one of the things that really intrigued me was what was it like to be a woman whose job kept you away from home for so much of the year. how did that shift or change or condition your personal relationships back home both with family and with others. so it does include that as well. >> any plans for this to become a tv series or anything? >> yeah. i'm starting to talk to people about that. i hope so, it'd be amazing. >> well, this is a fantastic book, so i just want to remind everyone that's watching that you can order by just pressing the green button, and we'll ship it right out to you. if you're in miami and you want to come by one of our stores, we're carrying it as well. and then i have christina
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letting you know, please tell julia that she's one of our favorite researchers -- >> oh, thank you. [laughter] >> -- on top of being delightful in every way. so there was that. [laughter] i think that that is it for questions. if you'd like to say a, do like a little reading or just wrap things up, that would be great. >> sure. yeah. i, so, let me see, i'm going to -- i'm not sure what to read. >> i love the writing. >> thank you. it was really fun to be, to be reading and researching about especially feminism and the way that the feminist movement was moving through that err and -- that era and then watching it,
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watching the changes of the era change these women's lives, like, it was a feedback loop in a way that the women's lives were changing even as they were changing, they were propelling those changes in the broader public, if that makes sense, in this they were choosing to be much more independent and to, sorry, to marry at later ages. and then ill look at the statistics for marriage and see that they were part of a much broader, a much wider, you know, a bigger phenomenon than even they realized. but that they were making those changes happen. so that's what i found incredible. >> did the women have to retire at a certain age, or was this, like, a long-term career for a lot of them, or what did they go on to do? >> that's a great question, and i'm so glad you asked that because that is necessary for wrapping up --
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[laughter] of course, i have to get to that before signing off. yeah. so, basically, this cohort of women, the women who worked for the airlines in this era, are the reason that it changed from being a two-year stint in the airlines to a profession, a job that women and men could hold for as long as they wanted to. what happened was that at the beginning in the '60s, at the beginning of the book's time period in the '60s, they -- the rule was that you had to retire upon getting married if or turning either 32 or 35 on the different airlines. pan-am didn't often -- anecdotal hi i heard that they did not often use that option. they didn't really often fire the women who turned 35 as long as women continued performing their job well and still looked good. they could keep working. but, you know, even that phrase
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should reveal the truly sex isist nature of that rule -- sexist nature of that rule. the women were asked to stay young, they were required to stay young both, you know, appealing to the male passengers and also because it was cheaper. they didn't have dependents. their health insurance costs were low. they were single and young. and they weren't necessarily speaking up for themselves or acting out on their rights. as far as what they really deserved. that's why the airlines wanted them to be young. now, the women wanted to keep their jobs. they didn't necessarily have a problem with a certain level of -- it wasn't that they had an issue with the sexism or the objectification that this entailed. some of them did, but that was not necessarily what these lawsuits were about. the lawsuits, and this is what i found so interesting, the
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lawsuits were about women not wanting to quit. they just wanted to keep doing their job. they just wanted to keep flying. and so, you know, they took the airlines to court to dismantle those age ceilings and the dismantle the regulation that they had to quit if they got married. and eventually dismantle the regulation that stated they couldn't be pregnant, couldn't have children. you know, the assumption was that you only get pregnant if you're married. by, you know, not allowing women to get married, they thought they were keeping women from getting pregnant also which really, you know, we know that's not the case. [laughter] but they just assumed if they were, if they dismantled the regulation against marriage, then they also had to be allowed to have children. so, you know, once they won
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these regulations were attacked and fell, so that those lawsuits actually set the labor law precedent for a lot of the women's rights, women's employment law that followed it in the later '70s. but most importantly to the women that i profiled, it meant that they could keep flying, and it meant that they, you know, the job changed from being a two-year stint that women pursued for, you know, a little bit before settling down to really, you know, a profession. >> very interesting when you spoke about anticipating diplomacy to a certain extent or a style of diplomacy, how they were cultural diplomats. >> they really were, yeah. so basically, you know, because pan-am was this international airline that was really intertwined with the government, pan-am flew, pan-am was very
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involved in world war ii and airlifted or in the korean war and also flew soldiers out to vietnam in the vietnam war. so so in part because of that and then in part just because of the flight routes as an international airline, and the premiere international airline to have era, the passengers, the clientele were so varied. and the women were taught, speaking of the miami archives, the manuals in miami are absolutely amazing. they're incredible to look at in part a because they cover such a wide range of information. the women were taught in the training how to, for example, the manuals have representations of all the fraternal
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organizations. some of them were taught to, you know, look for mason pins. and if there were two people onboard wearing the same pin, they were told to introduce them in flight. and, you know, they were taught to recognize, they were taught the different culinary traditions of the different places that they were flying to and how they should be serving people differently on different flights. so they were, all of these, the common thread in that section of the training really was diplomacy. and they were told they were diplomats, that they were representing the united states in the air and that they needed to be behave as such. and, you know, they were expected to what we would call -- they were also told how to, how to calm passengers down who were anxious at flying when flying was new, a relatively new
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technology. it was new, certainly, for huge amounts of the public. so they were told how to, you know, what's the best psychologists say that these are the best subjects to discuss when someone's nervous, and this is how you should calm someone down. here is what, here are the signs of anxiety to look for. they were also told, they were taught the physics of flight because if people asked, they wanted the stewardesses to know how to respond. so these training manuals, and then you've got also, of course, that's how to the slice a rack of lamb and what ingredients to put into a highball this what order and how to serve -- so it was really -- >> they had to be very smart. >> yes. they had to think on their feet. >> uh-huh. well, this is so wonderful. thank you so much for sharing
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your stories, especially now when we are all longing the travel. >> yes. >> i think this whets the appetite for all of us even further. >> i hope so. the research took me to a lot of interesting places. >> how long did you work on the book? >> six years. >> and may i ask what are your hopes for the book? >> really, that's a great question. i hope that it reshapes how people think of the job, honestliment i really hope that -- honestly, i really hope on a more widespread level that these women can find their place in a really dignified and important history in the way that they actually were. of the job that they were doing was dignified and important, and, you know, i think that it really, i do believe that the it paved the way for younger women
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travelers when they started flying in the early '60s. it was barely acceptable for women to be traveling on their own, and, you know, ten years later it was much more common to see, you know, groups of young women in foreign countries. and i think that -- [inaudible] >> well, again. thank you. thank you for joining us. our little virtual book shop, i hope we're going to get to see you in person at some point. >> i hope so too. >> the next time you're in miami. >> absolutely. >> and just remind, a reminder to everyone that you can board a book at books and books and that we would love it if you would. and, again, thank you for watching from everywhere. stay safe and fly safe. [laughter] >> yeah.
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