Today in 1945, five flight attendants formed the Air Line Stewardesses Association (ALSA), the first-ever labor union representing female flight attendants. The first president was Ada Brown Greenfield. ALSA was partly a powerful response to the industry’s social climate of the time, in which women were forced to retire at the age of 32 and had harsh height and appearance requirements.
The union later became the Association of Flight Attendants in 1973. In 2004, in order to better maintain services after a massive layoff of flight attendants following the September 11th attacks, the AFA voted to merge with the Communication Workers of America, which is how it remains today.
Photo: Stewardess serving dinner aboard an American airliner, circa 1941. Library of Congress