The role of the flight attendant derived from similar positions on passenger ships and trains. However, because passengers are in closer quarters while on a plane, and because there are a lot more safety concerns while on air, the skills required of a flight attendant are much more specific than for other similar roles.
The first flight attendant was a man, Heinrich Kubis, in 1912. Soon after, most airlines had cabin boys or stewards in the 1920s. It was United Airlines who hired the first female flight attendant in 1930. Her name was Ellen Church and she was a 25-year-old registered nurse. She was so good, that she started a trend of hiring female nurses to work on airplanes, and they completely replaced men by 1936.
The job of a flight attendant was high in demand, because it was one of the only jobs where women could be hired at the time; there are examples of 2000 women applying for 43 spots, for example. Because of this, airlines were able to be choosy. The New York Times wrote this list of requirements in 1936:
"The girls who qualify for hostesses must be petite; weight 100 to 118 pounds; height 5 feet to 5 feet 4 inches; age 20 to 26 years. Add to that the rigid physical examination each must undergo four times every year, and you are assured of the bloom that goes with perfect health."
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