“History in Our Midst.” Story in SONOMA: Stories of a Region and its People. Redwood Writers 2017 Anthology. Available on Amazon.com
Elaine’s short story highlights the life of Sonoma County resident Barbara “Dusty” Roads and how she became known as the one who ignited the Second Wave of the Women’s Liberation Movement. As an American Airlines stewardess and airline industry union negotiator and legislative lobbyist to Congress, Dusty fought regulations prohibiting marriage and requiring the firing of stewardesses at age thirty-two. It was a 15-year struggle during which Dusty and her colleague, Jean Montague, became the first in the United States to file a sexual discrimination complaint with the EEOC after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Workplace discrimination in the airline industry would not begin to be resolved until Dusty and her union threatened a national strike in 1968.
Books in Progress:
Fighting for Fairness in Flight: A Biography of Barbara “Dusty” Roads
“Dusty Roads stood up for an entire class of women workers – then known as stewardesses – who were supposed to work hard while being decorative, and then be cast aside at 32. In so doing, she also transformed the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission into the first agency that protected women of all races; indeed, the first that addressed race as well as sex. Women and men need her example as a light on the path ahead.” – Gloria Steinem
How would you respond if, after being hired for your dream job at age twenty-two, you were told by your company that you would be fired at age thirty-two because you’ll be too old by then to perform your duties? In 1953, American Airlines actually mandated the forced firing of stewardesses at age thirty-two presumably because they would be too old to fly. Like marriage restrictions, this rule soon became an industry-wide regulation and many stewardesses lived in fear of losing their jobs.
Barbara “Dusty” Roads, hired as an American Airlines stewardess in 1950, was retroactively protected from dismissal, but nevertheless felt the termination rule was arbitrary and sexist as other restrictive ones. After all, no male steward or commercial pilot ever had the same demands made upon their employment. Since she couldn’t be fired for growing old, she felt she had nothing to lose by fighting the rule and her Midwestern sense of fair play propelled her into action on behalf of her colleagues.
Dusty became an ALSSA (Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association) union Vice-Chairman, negotiator and national legislative representative in Washington, D. C. Hers was the most powerful voice for stewardesses in an industry dominated by male executives and pilots. Her charismatic leadership and determination succeeded in inspiring stewardesses to fight and demonstrate for their civil rights…and win.
Interviews and speaking engagements with Dusty Roads, Jean Montague and Elaine Rock can be arranged by contacting us here.
Revolutionary Women is a compilation of short stories about women who, in the 1960s and 70s worked in traditionally male-oriented jobs—unintentional trailblazers for women’s rights. Elaine interviews these fascinating women and explories what it was like to be among the first women hired for a “man’s position” in the workplace. It was a time of tumultuous cultural and social change for both men and women and these stories reveal how women were both sabataged and accepted. Featured are San Francisco’s first female firefighters, a UPS freight truck driver, an Army soldier, a USPS mail carrier, a pest control exterminator, a county septic and water systems biologist, and a PG&E utility line worker.
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1925, Polish immigrant Jenny Rigelski finds herself a widow at age 31. Her husband, a railroad company supervisor, drowns in a freak train accident. Already a practicing apothecary and owner of a general store, she struggles to support her four children by selling groceries and creating herbal elixirs for her neighbors. As an apothecary, she receives legal alcohol to make her herbal remedies. Her husband’s friends suggest she formulate and sell bathtub gin as a supplement to her income. Their wives encourage Jenny as they know it will keep their men away from the speakeasies. She decides to disguise the gin as an herbal potion and then branches out to home-brewing.
The railroad workers,neighbors and friends stop by the store regularly to buy her mason jars of gin. They work hard to keep it a secret from outsiders. Police officers also lust after her concoctions and vow to keep her production a secret while offering her protection. Her bathtub gin business booms. As bootleg gangs get wind of her activities they start causing trouble. The railroad workers, her neighbors, her children and the police dream up an elaborate plan that goes to extreme lengths to hide her batches of gin. Together, they run off the intruders. Afterwards, Jenny continues to run her gin business without interruption until Prohibition ends and her children graduate from college. She eventually sells her herbal and medicinal formulas and apothecary business to Walgreens and retires to California.
This story is based on the author’s grandmother who made bathtub gin during Prohibition.