We’ve Come a Long Way, or Have We? by Debra H. Goldstein
When you checked out the Happy Thanksgiving listing of the Stiletto Gang’s books (http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2016/11/happy-thanksgiving.html), did you notice the one thing they all have in common?
The books and poems are written by strong women and whether dramatic or comedic, they feature women capable of finding solutions. The women writing these books and appearing on the pages can often be characterized as steel magnolias. Their independence, career choices, relationships, ultimately are of their own choosing.
What a change in society our style of writing reflects. Historically, women writers often tended to use initials or male names rather than their own names because they felt books by men would sell better. Think P.L. Travers, S.E. Hinton, P.D. James, J.D. Robb, or V.K. Andrews, to name a few. They also had to conform their writing to certain norms.
In Little Women, Jo could be a tomboy, but in the end, she still had to wear dresses and bonnets.
Recently, I read Silver Wings for Vicki, the first in the Vicki Barr stewardess series by Helen Wells. I was struck by the contrast between the eagerness of the young women wanting to fly for adventure and their understanding of the responsibilities their job entailed. More than being a waitress in the sky, stewardesses had to be “able to handle all sorts of people, tactfully, in any sort of situation.” (page 18) They needed to know health, hygiene, psychology of dealing with people, nutrition and cooking to prepare and serve meals, languages, and geography. They also had to be
What really caught my attention was when during her interview, Vicki asks if a stewardess must really be beautiful and is told: “Real beauty isn’t necessary, but you have to be nice to look at: well-groomed, pleasant, and not too tall or heavy. After all, a plane must carry the biggest payload possible, and the heavier the crew the less paying weight we can carry.” The interviewer then explains why a five foot eight woman whose weight is proportionate to her height would be unacceptable, “But the airlines do recognize that American girls are growing taller, and we’re gradually raising the height and weight limits. Besides, …bigger, roomier planes are coming into use, and with bigger cabins there’ll be space for taller girls.”
Reading this book made me appreciate, as the Virginia Slims slogan went, “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.” Or, have we?