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MAKERS Spotlights Stewardess, Coal Miner

Aug 8, 2012

This week hears from a groundbreaking stewardess who talks about her fight against the discrimination of female flight attendants and from one of the country's first female coal miners, whose case against sexual harassment in the workplace reached the Supreme Court, making major strides in the women's movement.

Barbara "Dusty" Roads is a former stewardess and union leader who led a landmark sex discrimination case in the airline industry. Growing up loving aviation, Roads started flying as a stewardess with American Airlines once she realized women could not be hired as pilots. Although she enjoyed her career, she came to question industry policies that forced stewardesses to remain unmarried and retire at the age of 32. By 1965, Roads was a lobbyist for the National Flight Attendants Union, later the ALSSA, and began to fight back. In 1968, after years of determination and hard work, the Equal Opportunities Employment Commission issued a ruling prohibiting age ceilings or marriage bans in the airline industry.

Barbara Burns was one of the first female coal miners in the country and an 'everywoman' champion against sexual harassment in the workplace. By 1975, she was a mother of two with a husband in poor health. She was eager to earn more money for her family and became one of the first female coal miners in the country. She worked her way up through the ranks to foreman before being recruited by Smoot Coal Company, Inc. as a lab technician. At Smoot, Burns found herself the target of aggressive sexual advances and stalking by her boss, the company president. Unable to take it any longer, Burns eventually sought out attorney Betty Jean Hall and filed a complaint. The case lasted until 2000, when the West Virginia Supreme Court finally ruled in her favor.

Learn more about Barbara by watching this video:

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