Leopoldine Emma Douala-Bell Smith is the first black stewardess in history.
Granddaughter of Rudolphe Douala Manga Bell, Léopoldine was born and lived in Cameroon until 1956, when she finished her secondary high school and was recruited at the age of 17 by the Union aéromaritime de transport (Aeromaritime Transport Union), a former French airline.
While working for this company, she attended a flight training course in Paris provided by Air France. In 1957, as she turns 18, she was on her first flight, a year before Ruth Carol Taylor, the first black American flight stewardess.
Three years later, she is hired by Air Afrique, a newly created airline serving eleven French-speaking nations, former French colonies and newly independent.
Later promoted as the company's first pursuer, she received, symbolically, the n° 001 professional identity card.
After flying for 12 years, she retired at 30. She suffered racism, harassment and prejudice because of her gender and skin complexion. She will however continue to work as an airport manager, consultant and volunteer for various public and private airlines and travel agencies in Africa and the United States.
In 2015, Léopoldine Smith is honored on the 40th anniversary of the Black Flight Attendants of America, at the Los Angeles Flight Path Learning Center & Museum.