15 May 1930: Ellen Church

Ellen Church
Ellen Church

15 May 1930: Ellen Church (1904–1965) became the first airline stewardess, now more commonly titled Flight Attendant, on a Boeing Air Transport flight from Oakland to Chicago. A registered nurse and licensed pilot, Miss Church had approached Steve Sampson at Boeing Air Transport (later, United Air Lines) to inquire about being hired as a pilot.

When her request was denied, she suggested that the airline put registered nurses aboard BAT’s airplanes to care for the passengers. She was hired to recruit and train seven additional women as stewardesses. Because of the cabin size and weight-carrying limitations of those early airliners, they were limited to a height of 5’4″ and 115 pounds. They were to be registered nurses, but not to be more than 25 years old. The salary was $125.00 per month.

Captain Ellen Church, NC, USAAF.
Captain Ellen Church, NC, USAAF.

Miss Church worked for BAT for about 18 months until she was injured in a car accident. She then returned to her career in nursing.

During World War II, Miss Church was a U.S. Army Air Force flight nurse, caring for soldiers evacuated by air from North Africa and the Mediterranean areas. Captain Church trained flight nurses for the upcoming invasion of Europe on D-Day.

Ellen Church Marshall died in 1965 of injuries from a horse riding accident.

The first eight airline stewardesses, from left to right, Jessie Carter, Cornelia Peterman, Ellen Church, Inez Keller, Alva Johnson, Margaret Arnott, Ellis Crawford and Harriet Fry. The airliner is a Boeing Model 80A. (National Air and Space Museum)
The first eight airline stewardesses, from left to right, Jessie Carter, Cornelia Peterman, Ellen Church, Inez Keller, Alva Johnson, Margaret Arnott, Ellis Crawford and Harriet Fry. The airliner is a Boeing Model 80A. (National Air and Space Museum)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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