This week, Continental Airlines was officially dissolved and became a part of the biggest airline company in the United States, United Airlines. Thus, another airline carrier of my past has gone the way of corporate take overs (remember PSA, Western, TWA-- to name a few). However, this particular takeover is different from the rest as it has personal significance to me. You see, my grandmother, Idalene Standish Coleman, was one of the first five employees of the original Continental Airlines, and the only woman. In today's terms, that is no big deal. But this was back in 1934 and that was a HUGE deal. Commercial airlines were in their infancy and just trying to figure it out, not to mention the public was a tad skeptical of this new mode of travel. And women in the workforce was largely unheard of in the 30's. Consequently, my grandmother WAS a big deal.
In the beginning, Continental Airlines was not Continental Airlines but actually a new leg of Varney Speed Lines. It started out using two airplanes to travel between Pueblo,Colorado and El Paso, Texas. It's main business was carrying U.S. mail, but it also offered to transport the occasional brave traveler between those destinations in one of its eight passenger seats. In 1936, the route became its own entity and changed its name to Continental Airlines to reflect its expanding travel up and down the center of the United States.
When Continental was bought out in 1938, the new owners moved its headquarters from El Paso to Denver, Colorado and my grandmother and her family followed. Employment opportunities and other circumstances did not pan out for her husband and they ended up divorcing, with him moving back to El Paso. Instead of retreating back to family and familiar surroundings, my grandmother stayed on as a single, working mother in Denver, continuing her pioneering as a front-line participant in the development of modern air travel. It couldn't have been easy being a woman in a new field composed primarily of men. It couldn't have been easy raising her son on her own in an unfamiliar city. But she did it and she was successful. She stayed with Continental until 1944. At the time of her departure, she was the controller/executive secretary to the president.
In today's world, it is common and accepted to see women in the workplace. We take for granted all of the trailblazing, pioneering, and sacrifices that was endured in year's gone past so that we can have what we do now. It is gratifying for me to know that my grandmother was one of those women who contributed to making this happen.