Riverside Museum

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Remembering the women who kept Glasgow moving during World War I

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A group of female Glasgow Tramways employees ready for service. During World War I the Tramways needed all the help it could get to keep the city moving...even a miniature Charlie Chaplin seemed ready to help.

It is 1915.  Britain is at war with Germany.  Thousands of men have volunteered for the army, leaving their jobs to fight for King and Country.  Without them working their daily jobs, the nation would have come to a stand still.  Britain needed help.  Britain needed its women.

Glasgow faced a shortage of men to operate the city’s vast tram fleet.  So, a controversial experiment took place.  The Glasgow Tramways decided to take on women as drivers and conductresses.  Never before had females been allowed to work as a motorman on a tram.  Great opposition came from the press and the public.

In December of 1915 The People’s Journal reported that the general public “decided that the new departure would only end in failure.  Women were constitutionally unfit for such an onerous purpose and the majority of the tramway employees were of the same way of thinking.”

The opposition was strong, but the experiment proved a success.  Women were allowed to be motorman and conductresses, at least until the men came home!
 
Curator Aileen Strachan has been investigating this radical experiment from Glasgow’s rich history. The story of these pioneers and how transport impacts lives will be one of many featured in the new Riverside Museum.

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Written by jmessner

November 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

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