Enter the world of sexual discrimination in the 1950s and 60s and the story of Dusty Roads, an American Airlines stewardess and flight attendant, union organizer, lobbyist to Congress, and civil rights trailblazer. Dusty was the hidden figure who really ignited the Women’s Movement— before it had a name. Among her many achievements, Dusty played a pivotal role in fighting and overturning the airlines’ ban on marriage and the sex-based policies grounding or firing them at thirty-two or thirty-five, paving the way for gender equality in the airline industry.

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Most think Gloria Steinem or Betty Friedan started the Women’s Liberation Movement and that the need for it is a thing of the past. However, with the overturning of Roe vs Wade and politicians turning back the clock on hard won women’s victories, the story of one of feminism’s earliest pioneers couldn’t be timelier. Barbara “Dusty” Roads, an American Airlines stewardess and labor trailblazer, paved the way for women in the airline industry and beyond.

A typical 1950s blonde beauty, Dusty may have stayed on the sidelines were it not for an American Airlines policy preventing stewardesses from flying after age thirty-two. The reason? The airlines considered that at thirty-two, women were no longer the beautiful representatives of femininity meant to attract the traveling businessman. American Airlines wanted their in-flight escorts to be young, attractive, and single. Dusty was incensed and determined to change the regulations. She joined the union in 1953 and ultimately became her union’s unpaid lobbyist to Congress. She testified at Congressional hearings and helped write a bill to repeal the age rule. When it was dubbed “The Old Broads Bill” by some congressmen and failed to pass, she realized they weren’t just fighting airline industry management but national gender discrimination. Dusty Roads by Elaine Rock, highlights the life of a significant hero of the women’s rights movement whose story is relevant for the women of today. The fight continues, and Dusty Roads is a role model and inspiration for those still striving for equality.

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