May 11, 1918: Duluth streetcar company announces women conductors

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 more about the history of Duluth’s Streetcar system here.

From 1892 to 1934 the Lester Park Line of the Duluth Street Railway Company, also known as the Lakeside Line, provided streetcar service between Twenty-second Avenue east and Sixty-first Avenue East. Photo by Hugh McKenzie, date unknown. (Image: Zenith City Press)