Monday, 13 April 2015

Lady Ticket Collectors in Birmingham

From the Birmingham Daily Mail, 13th April 1915.

The two lady ticket collectors who commenced their duties at Moor Street Station yesterday, the Great Western Railway having decided to follow the example of the Great Central Railway and try the experiment of introducing female collectors in order to release more men for war duty, were agreeably surprised at the result of their first day's experience.  One of the ladies had had previous experience in the employ of the company, but in quite a different department; the other had come from a quiet home life, so that the duties were entirely new to them, and they naturally entered upon their task with a certain amount of misgiving, but the courteous treatment accorded them by the travelling public quickly allayed all their fears in this direction.  The one who commenced punching tickets under the firm conviction that she would not remain a ticket collector for longer than a week, quite altered her opinion before the day was out.

"Everyone treated us splendidly," she explained; "there was not a sneer or an insult all day." They had to see all tickets, including season tickets but passengers were most obliging.  There was, of course, a little surprise on the part of some of them, end occasionally a little mirth, but generally speaking the public realised and appreciated the seriousness of affairs which had brought about the innovation, and judging by the result of the first day's working, it is evident that the public will quickly become used to the new order of things, and that the appearance of the lady collectors will attract little attention.  The new collectors were told that they were engaged for the duration of the war.  At present they are wearing ordinary costumes, with a white band on the arm inscribed “G.W.R. Ticket Collector”: but later they are to have uniforms.  They agreed that so far they had found the work very pleasant, and that it would be even easier when they had had a little more experience and got to know the regular passengers by sight.


The fact that the female railway ticket collector has made her appearance in Birmingham adds interest to the speculation when, if ever, there will be conductresses on the Birmingham tramcars.  On this point Mr. Harrison Barrow, the chairman of the committee, had something interesting to say on the subject.  So far, he said, the question of employing women as conductors on the city cars had not been seriously considered, for there were many objections to women doing such work in Birmingham.  Not only was there no accommodation for female employees at the various tram depots, but the early and late hours the cars run would not be suitable to female labour on them.  He (Mr. Barrow) had just come back from Paris, and what he had there seen of female tram conductors did not induce him to look favourably upon the idea. The further reduction of the tramway staff would inevitably bring about some modification of the present services.  With a scarcity of cleaners the public must not expect the trams to be turned out in the morning immaculately cleaned, and no doubt with a reduction in the number of cars in service there might be some crowding.  It had not yet been decided what restriction of the services would be necessary, but the public could rest assured that they would be incommoded as little as was possible.

[I expect that Mr Barrow changed his mind about employing women on the Birmingham trams before long. There must have been women working night shifts in Birmingham factories before the war so the early and late hours argument doesn't seem a compelling one.  And it seems not to have occurred to him at all that women would be perfectly capable of cleaning trams.]    

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