Writer & Activist
BARBARA "DUSTY" ROADS
Barbara "Dusty" Roads was born in 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. She went to college and earned a B.A. in English Literature from the Flora Stone Mather College for Women (now Case Western Reserve University). After she graduated in 1950, she got a job as a Stewardess for American Airlines. In 1953, American Airlines implemented a policy restricting the age of stewardesses’ continuing employment. At age 32, stewardesses hired after 1953 faced mandatory retirement. This outraged Roads and she began working with union leaders to protest the rule and quickly became a union negotiator. In 1958, the national union, ALSSA (Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association) appointed Roads their congressional representative to Washington, D.C.. She got no extra pay for this additional job and had no choice but to perform her lobbying duties during her regular Los Angeles to Washington D.C. flight layovers. In April 1963 after ten years of FAA testimonies, and lobbying and negotiating without any compromise by the airlines, she and Nancy Collins organized a press conference at the Commodore Hotel in New York City where they challenged the gentlemen of the press to guess which of the eight stewardesses there were under thirty-two and which were over thirty-two. Every major newspaper in the country printed their story and Roads became an overnight sensation, but negotiations continued to stall. In 1965, Roads and stewardess Jean Montague, were ready to take their fight to the newly created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC was created as the government’s administrative agency responsible for enforcing the new federal employment discrimination laws. The two stewardesses became the first in the country to file a discrimination complaint. It would be the first time the staff at the EEOC recognized that discrimination came in the form of gender bias as well as racial discrimination. However, it would take three more years and the threat of a national stewardess strike before the EEOC made a decision on the issue in 1968. Stewardesses were finally allowed equality and protection against discriminatory actions in their profession under Title VII. Roads continued her career in flight until she retired at the age of sixty-six.
"Unless we stand up and fight for it, nobody else is."