The Flight Attendant’s Shoe
by Prudence Black
New South, $49.95 pb, 368 pp, 9781742232560
The international air hostess was the ultimate twentieth-century modern girl – mobile, cosmopolitan, glamorous. She was paid to travel around the world, journeys that, in the early years of intercontinental travel, could take several days and involve stopping at exotic places such as Singapore, Calcutta, Karachi, and Cairo on the ‘Kangaroo Route’ between Australia and London. She was, of course, a ‘girl’ (she had to resign from her job on marriage), she had to have a ‘good appearance and personality’, and her height and weight had to fall within narrowly defined limits. Her look had to match the glamorous mobility and cosmopolitanism that she signified. At the same time, her job was to look after people: she had to be easily identifiable as a staff member, and one belonging to a specific company. She had to wear a uniform – something anonymous that might seem to counteract the glamour of the job.