About a year ago we presented a blog celebrating taxicab drivers depicted in the movies. We only featured one film that celebrated a female taxi driver. On The Town, three sailors on a day of shore leave in New York City look for fun and romance before their twenty-four hours are up, one of those romances was with a character played by actress Betty Garrett, the role: female taxi driver.
When the movie debuted, in 1949, female taxicabs were a unique site for any passenger. Largely seen as a male occupation, the expectation was that the driver behind the wheel would be a man. Most folks at that time and perhaps even today would be surprised to know that women have been driving taxis for many years prior the making of the film.
In New York, in 1915 the first woman to work as a taxi driver in New York and was an expert garage mechanic named Wilma Russa. At about the same time Miss. Susan Dudley Ryder had the distinction of being London’s first female taxi driver, having passed all the driving tests to attain The Knowledge.
Women would expand their role as taxicab drivers though out world war I, It would be the second world war that ultimately put women in the taxi driver seats on a long term basis. In the Acme photograph below depicts the perception of the taxicab customers.
Cab company reverts to policy of World War I days: Baltimore, MD., due to the pressing needs of the national defense program and manpower, the Sun Cab Company of this city, operating a fleet of several hundred cabs, has been forced to revert to its policy of World War I days, that is the hiring of women drivers. Recruiting from the ranks of housewives, nurses, ex-showgirls, musicians, and office workers, these girls have formed the nucleus of a “New Order” in the local taxi field. The cabettes range in age from twenty-five to thirty-two years, work from ten hour shifts, six days a week and average from twenty-five to thirty-five dollars in wages. They have proven to be more cautious drivers than the men they work with. Mr. Robert Smith, personnel director for the company, is pleased with the satisfactory manner the the general public has shown toward the women drivers.
This photo caption dated March 14th 1941 demonstrates women drivers were now being accepted as professionals in the taxicab driving business. Over the next two decades women would continue to make inroads in the taxi business well before the women liberation movement of the early 70’s . Cities across the country would continue to add women to the driver workforce.
In 1962 perhaps the biggest step forward was the election of Arleen Miller to the presidency of the American Taxicab Association (ATA). Miss Miller had been involved most of her professional life running the Luxur Cab Company in Springfield, Mass. Madeline Smith also of Springfield was another leader in the taxicab industry, an Executive Director with the ATA, Miss Smith would represent all Massachusett cab companies within the association. Both women would demonstrate leadership that impact all women in the taxi industry.
So again here’s to the lady’s, as we are now 18 years into a new century, it’s not a surprise to see a women behind the wheel of a taxicab thanks to the likes of Russey and Ryder.
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