Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke


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“At its heart, this reads as a history of women who want—and work for—more: more excitement, more opportunities, more respect. More life worth living.

Interwoven with the history of Pan Am and the marketability of travel, Cooke follows the lives of several former Pan Am flight attendants from their decisions to apply to a company whose physical standards (from hairstyles to weigh-ins to age) so clearly deserve criticism to their routes through coup-riddled warzones, their RR flights carrying soldiers, and their role in the Operation Babylift at the end of the Vietnam War. The young women profiled on these pages are not only fighting for equal rights at home, they’re also searching for a bigger role and finding it in the bigger world.

This is a quick and fascinating read that is as informative as it is galvanizing.”


Glamour, danger, liberation: in a Mad Men–era of commercial flight, Pan Am World Airways attracted the kind of young woman who wanted out, and wanted up

Required to have a college education, speak two languages, and possess the political savvy of a Foreign Service officer, a jet-age stewardess serving on iconic Pan Am between 1966 and 1975 also had to be between 5′3″ and 5′9″, between 105 and 140 pounds, and under 26 years of age at the time of hire. 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 Black 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 flown 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.

Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke