A lively, unexpected portrait of the jet-age stewardesses serving on iconic Pan Am airways between 1966 and 1975
Glamour, danger, adventure, liberation: in a Mad Men–era of commercial flight, Pan Am attracted a special sort of young woman. Required to be between 5′3″ and 5′9”, between 105 and 140 pounds, and under 26 years old, she also had to have a college education, speak two languages, and possess the political savvy of a Foreign Service Officer. Cooke’s intimate storytelling weaves together the real-life stories of a memorable cast of characters, from small-town girl Lynne Totten, a science major who decided life in a lab was not for her, to Hazel Bowie, one of the relatively few African American stewardesses of the era, as they embraced the liberation of their new jet-set life. Cooke brings to light the story of Pan Am stewardesses’ role in the Vietnam War, as the airline added runs from Saigon to Hong Kong for planeloads of weary young soldiers straight from the battlefields, who were off for five days of R & R, and then sent back to war. Finally, with Operation Babylift—the dramatic evacuation of 2,000 children during the fall of Saigon—the book’s special cast of stewardesses unites to play an extraordinary role on the world stage.