Jane, Stewardess of the Airlines

Ruthe S. Wheeler. 1934.

Say, girl! You say you just graduated from nursing school, have $4.82 to your name, and can't get a job? The only thing to do is follow the recommendation of your nursing supervisor, fly to Chicago, and apply to the newly-organized Stewardess Department of Federated Airways! Within twenty-four hours they will have measured you for a neat smoke-green uniform and flown you to their headquarters in Cheyenne for training. Since you have already coped with an appendicitis case on your flight to Chicago, the fact that your planeload of apprentice "stews" will lose an engine and crash-land in Nebraska shouldn't bother you in the least . . .

Wait a minute! A trained nurse who can't get a job? I don't think we're in the 90s any more, Toto.

No. It's 1934, and those are the opening chapters of Jane, Stewardess of the Airlines, the earliest of the nurse/stewardess books I've come across. Not only does Jane love flying and get her own pilot's license, but she finds it financially rewarding as well: her first flight as a crew member, technically before she has finished training, results in a thousand-dollar thank-you from the billionaire Mrs. Van Verity Vanness (it was her charter flight from Los Angeles to her ailing son's bedside in New York that created the demand for an attendant) and the sale of Jane's story of that flight (on which they were menaced by "air bandits" in a sinister black biplane with machine guns) to a reporter brings another $500. The year, be it remembered, is 1934, with the dollar worth roughly five times its current value.

The pilot's license lets Jane perform as a stunt flier in a movie being shot on location (if there is one thing a girl's book writer likes even better than aviation, it's the movies) and she parachutes from her disabled stunt plane with no previous preparation. We are still only halfway through the book. Still ahead are the midwinter mission carrying "the serum" to a snowbound town in the Rockies to stop a typhoid epidemic, and the kidnapping of child star Jackie Condon. (Jane rescues him by stealing the kidnappers' seaplane and flying to the nearest Coast Guard cutter.)

No wonder there is no romantic interest in this book. Jane doesn't have the time!

I have read other titles in the Goldsmith "Everygirls' Series" this volume belongs to, and it bears no resemblance to any of them. You want an exciting hour and a half? Read Jane.

© 1993 Jo Anne Fatherly

This review first appeared in The Whispered Watchword, the newsletter of The Phantom Friends