May 11, 1918: Women Hired as Streetcar Conductors

A streetcar along Superior Street at 13th Avenue East.  The house in the background belonged to Guilford and Caroline Hartley. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1918, Duluth Street Railway Company manager Herbert Warren gingerly broke the news that the company would be hiring women as conductors. While stating the women would receive the same pay as male conductors and that Duluth was the first city in the “northwest” to use women in this work, the announcement was hardly progressive. The newspaper’s lead mocked the idea: “Conductresses, if such a term may be applied, will soon be the vogue on the streetcars [in Duluth].” The story focused on attire (“The women will wear blue uniforms, skirts reaching to the shoe top….”) and mentioned that the local YWCA officials would approve the female quarters of the carhouse, the women’s uniform, and even the women themselves. Warren assured readers that “A matron recommended by the YWCA will have direct charge of the women.” Read the full story here.

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