March 5, 1904: First Woman to cross canal in Aerial Transfer Bridge

On this day in Duluth in 1904, Anna Borth of 716 Lake Avenue South—one block south of the ship canal—became the first woman to cross the Duluth Ship Canal in the gondola car of the Aerial Transfer Bridge. Borth, who had carefully watched the bridge’s construction, became determined to be the first person across. So she approached workers and asked for a ride, and they obliged her, telling the Duluth News Tribune that, “she was alone in the car and thoroughly enjoyed the little thrill of being part of so tremendous and important an enterprise.” The paper claimed she was the first person, male or female, to ride the ferry bridge and wrote that it was fitting that “a person on the other side should have this honor.” Technically, however, she wasn’t the first person to cross in the gondola car. The story did not mention that bridge workers already used the bridge regularly and that an operator was on board during all crossings, including Anna Borth’s ride. Still, she was the first woman and the first person not involved in the bridge’s construction to cross in the car. She and her husband Emil both worked for Weiland’s Shoes and she was the organist for St. Clement’s Catholic Church. Anna Borth was also on board the gondola car on July 1, 1929, when it made its final crossing of the canal. Also on this date in 2001: Paula Hanela becomes first woman to be hired as a bridge operator. Read more about Duluth’s famous Aerial Bridge here.

Anna Borth’s photograph in the Duluth News Tribune March 6, 1905. (Image: Zenith City Press)