Tuesday, 16 June 2015

What Should Tram Conductresses wear?

From the Falkirk Herald, 16th June, 1915.



..... I should like to turn attention for a little to the new feature [women conductors] of the tramway system, and perhaps to make a few suggestions if I might be permitted.

Now, the very first requirement on the part of a male person in regard to a feminine worker such as a car conductor is that she must look well.  While he is apt to have scant sympathy or consideration for “a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,” he will be all smiles, apologies, and so forth for the lady whose costume is attractive, whose countenance is unwrinkled, and who generally has nothing about her that can be considered dowdy or slatternly.

So far none of the ladies on the Falkirk tram-way system have come under my notice, but I have seen one or two of those who decorate the back platforms of the Glasgow cars, and it is because of a strong and rather unpleasant recollection of some of these ladies that I'm induced to make the remarks in the foregoing paragraph.  I hope no effort will be made in Falkirk, as one has in Glasgow, to array the women in habiliments which have some vague resemblance to ordinary feminine attire and some to the clothes of the everyday male conductor, but possess the grace of neither.

If any attempt is made to provide the new conductors with uniforms, can’t we have some of the military styles affected by impersonators on the stage?  In "The Gay Gordons" the amiable millionairess who won't marry a lord garbs herself, at one period of the comedy, in a uniform that would do magnificently.  It has the combined attributes of being neat, pretty, and charming.

Or if for any reason uniforms are disliked, why cannot we have up-to-date gowns.  Now that the warm weather is with us, we might have a selection of summery raiment for the "conductresses," and we might even have them provided with parasols to keep the sun off the back of their necks while they were punching our tickets on the upper deck.  And in order that the harmony of the scene might be wholly preserved, we might have the ugly black money bag of the male conductor discarded for something more elegant—say, a silver chain purse of suitable dimensions....

There are many difficulties in the way no doubt, but no excellent work was ever performed without some sort of difficulty having to be met and overcome.  It would be worth the trouble to have such visions on the rear platforms of the cars.  It would quadruple the takings, and do even more in fact if the capacity of the cars would permit.  Why, the whole of those who frequent Newmarket Street of an evening would spend their nights whirling round and round on the circular, and buying nothing more than penny tickets, so that they would all the oftener have the conductress with them.

[I think he's joking - I hope he's joking.  But this whole long piece (which I have cut down - it was considerably longer) does betray a difficulty in taking seriously women who were doing useful work.

Vesta Tilley was the best-known male impersonator of the time.  She was a music-hall star, and dressed in a version of military uniform to put on performances aimed at recruiting men for the army.]  

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