The London Transport Museum is looking for ladies — as part of a history project.

The museum is asking the general public and organisations to contact them with stories about female family members, ancestors or employees who may have worked in the transport industry in London or on the railway across the United Kingdom from 1800 to the present day.

Women Tube drivers, bus conductors and railway workers have helped to keep London and the country moving over the decades, however only very few of these notable women are represented in London’s transport history.

A new collecting project at London Transport Museum wants to put women centre stage by highlighting the lives of individuals who carried out important and skilled activities in a male dominated workforce, but who were often hidden from history.

The Museum is aiming to include the following ground-breaking women in an updated display at London Transport Museum, however the Museum wants to hear about other lesser-known women who shaped the history of the capital and the country.

If you know of someone who should in the exhibition, you should contact the Museum by 28 February 2019 via a form on this website.

Some of the stories they’ve found already include:

‘Widow’ Birch, real name Elizabeth Birch – First Woman Omnibus Operator (1811-1874)

Birch, also known as ‘Widow’ Birch, helped create the Westminster Omnibus Association after taking over her late husband’s cab business in 1846. In 1851 she bought four omnibuses and acquired a larger share of the association. She refused to sell the London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C), running her own services agreement with the new company. The business was passed on to her sons and Birch brothers continued as a successful bus and coach operator into the mid-20th Century.

Ellen Bulfield – Last LGOC First World War woman conductor (dates unknown)

Bulfield was one of the first women to work for the London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C) during the First World War. Astonishingly around 45 per cent of London’s transport workers were women in 1918, however Bulfield was one of the last female bus conductors, or ‘clippies’ as they were known, to hand over to a male colleague on his return from armed service.

Women were encouraged, and in some cases forced to step aside for men after the war. The L.G.O.C kept its promise to keep the jobs open for the discharged soldiers, so the employment of women was only temporary.

Women go on strike ‘Pound for Pound’ at Willesden Bus Garage in 1918

In August 1918, Ellen Bulfield was likely to have been one of the 17,000 female bus and tram workers who took industrial action when men were given a 5 shilling a week war bonus which the women were excluded from. Eventually, male and female workers up and down the country joined in and women won the 5 shilling bonus after a week of striking. The industrial action was started by a group of women at Willesden Bus Garage.

Hannah Dadds – First woman Tube driver, Forest Gate, Newham, (1941 to 2011)

The first female train driver on London Underground joined as a ‘station-woman’ in 1969 and qualified as a driver in 1978. This was important in the move towards equal opportunities for women in the workplace. In the early 1970s some people still believed that some jobs were not suitable for women. Dadds found most colleagues supportive, although she experienced some sexist remarks. Dadds became famous overnight when London Underground held a press conference and she posed for many photos climbing into the train cab. Her sister, Edna Dadds, worked at London Transport too and she and Hannah were the first all-female train crew. Dadds was invited to the Queen’s Women of Achievement lunch at Buckingham Palace in 2004.

Joy Jarvis – Tube seating fabric or ‘moquette’ designer (dates unknown)

Jarvis, a textile designer working in London during the 1940s, designed the ‘Roundel’ or ‘Bullseye’ moquette for London Transport, which was until recently wrongly attributed to another male designer. Her design was used on the Museum’s refurbished 1938 train stock and R stock in the late 1940s.

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One comment on “Where are the women in London Transport?
  1. Lesley McFadyen says:

    I believe my ex-husband’s aunt, Phyllis Sigrist, became a station master at a North London station after WWII (I think it was Stoke Newington, but could have been a Leyton/stone one) During the war she had been taken out of a general typists pool to give technical secretarial help to Frank Whittle who developed the jet engine. She was a strongly independent character and never married, although she had a daughter. (Phyllis would have been born in London in the 1920s).

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