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Where are all the women? Collecting project highlights hidden transport heroines 1

Courtesy LTM.

London Transport Museum’s Documentary Curator, Ellie Miles, on a project telling the stories of women from London’s transport history

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.

London Transport Museum want to put women centre stage by highlighting the lives of women in transport who have carried out important and skilled activities in a traditionally male dominated workforce, but who have often been hidden from history.

We aim to tell the stories of these ground-breaking women in updated displays across the collection at the Museum in Covent Garden. Here are just a few examples of remarkable women in transport:

Ellen Bulfield – Last L.G.O.C. First World War woman conductor

an old sepia photo of a woman conductor shaking the hand of a male conductor standing on a tram

Ellen Bullfield. Courtey LTM

Ellen Bulfield was one of the first women to work for the London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C) during the First World War, and 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. An astonishing 45% of London’s transport workers were women in 1918, however 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 workers were encouraged, and in some cases forced to step aside for men after the war.

‘Pound for Pound’ women strike at Willesden Bus Garage in 1918

a group black and white photo of women in long white overcoats and hats

A group of London General Omnibus Company women bus conductors, London Transport Museum Collection

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)

a photo of a woman climbing into a train cab

Hannah Dadds. Courtesy LTM

Hannah Dadds was the first female train driver on London Underground. She joined as a ‘station-woman’ in 1969 and qualified as a driver in 1978. This was an important moment in the move towards equal opportunities for women in the workplace, as 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. She became famous overnight when London Underground held a press conference and she posed for many photos climbing into the train cab. Her sister, Edna Head, also worked at London Transport, and they formed the first all-female train crew.

New additions to the history

London Transport Museum also want to enrich their records with stories of lesser-known women who have shaped the history of the Capital and the country. Since December 2018, we have been asking the public and organisations to contact us with stories about female family members, ancestors or employees who may have worked in the transport industry in London or across the United Kingdom from 1800 to the present day. Here are three new additions to our collection of stories:

Winifred Ann Westfold (1913-2008)

a black and white photo of a smiling woman with shoulder length hair

Winifred Westfold. Courtesy LTM

When Winifred Ann worked at Waterloo station during the Second World War, she was the only female employee in the ticket office. Her story and photograph was kindly shared with us by her daughter.

Joan Saunders-Reece

Joan Saunders-Reece joined London Underground in 1986 as a Direct Recruit Guard on the Northern Line, and went on to qualify as a Train Driver and then moved on to the Victoria Line as their first female Automatic Train Operator in 1992.

She became London Underground’s first female Fleet Instructor, teaching staff how to repair and maintain tube trains. Her next move was as a Duty Train Manager, again the first woman in this position for the District Line.

“Managing a team of 18 men, I was the first female Duty Manager for this team that responded to a wide variety of incidents on London Underground and National Rail.”

She currently works as Emergency Planning Manager for London Underground.

Victoria Roberts

a photo of a woman squatting next to a coach in a repair depot

Victoria Roberts. Courtesy LTM

Victoria worked for London Transport between 1991-94, as a driver, manager and mechanic. She contributed her own story, and had previously donated a series of photographs she has taken of her colleagues over the years, to London Transport Museum’s collections. In her own words she was “part of the much unseen fabric that us women create”.

Do you have a story to tell? Get in touch with London Transport Museum by emailing documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk 

For more information about the Where are all the Women? project visit the website at www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/projects-partnerships/where-are-all-the-women


London Transport Museum

London, Greater London

London Transport Museum explores the story of London and its transport system over the last 200 years, highlighting the powerful link between transport and the growth of modern London, culture and society since 1800. We care for over 450,000 items - preserving, researching and acquiring objects to use in our…

One comment on “Where are all the women? Collecting project highlights hidden transport heroines

  1. Brian Neale on

    I remember the clippy on the buses in the old days collecting the fares from the passengers. But they were mostly men and not women.


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