Tag Archives: Alfred E. Smith

How A 1919 New York Law Enacted To Help Women, Ended Up Costing Them Their Jobs

An Uproar Ensues When Women Take Men’s Jobs In Wartime New York

Marie Bocinec First Woman Street Car Conductor New York City Dec 11 1917

1917 – Marie Bocinec Becomes The First Woman Streetcar Conductor In New York City. As New Doors To Working Women Were Opening, Everything Was About To Go All Wrong.

Recently while watching the movie Music For Millions (1944) on TCM I was reminded how great social shifts can subtly occur.  In the movie filmed and set during World War II, June Allyson portrays a bass player in a New York symphony orchestra which has been filled with many women replacements. In the movie as in real life, as men were drafted into the armed services, the symphony orchestra had little alternative but to have skilled women become members in a profession that had been male dominated with few women in the ranks.

After World War II entree for women into orchestras became more accepted as women had proved every bit as adept as their male musical counterparts.

So when I came across this old news photograph of Marie Bocinec, the first woman streetcar conductor in New York City, it became apparent that it was also a war that nudged progress forward for women’s rights over some objections. But as it turned out that progress would be short-lived.

The United States entry into World War I in 1917 meant women would soon be filling jobs once held exclusively by men. Remember that women were not even allowed to vote in the United States until the 19th amendment was ratified more than two years later August 18, 1920.

The caption to this news photograph reads:

Photo of Miss Marie Bocinec

Clad in black taffeta caps trimmed with two bright golden braids more than forty pretty young girls have introduced an innovation in the daily life of New York and will soon be collecting nickels for railway companies throughout the country. Women street car conductors came to stay. They stood the test, and in many instances proved even superior to men in the discharge of their duties. No girl conductor is employed unless she is at least twenty-one years old and in good health. Miss Marie Bocinec, one of the prettiest girls among the women conductors, was the first to graduate and begin work as a conductor.    Photo – NYH Service December 11, 1917

Marie Bocinec’s first practice run on December 7, 1917 took her from 146th Street and Lenox Avenue to the Battery without incident.  Three days later on December 10, Marie was assigned to the Broadway line. Her wages? A six day work week for a ten hour workday with a two hour unpaid luncheon paid twenty seven cents an hour. On the bright side, if it can be called that, it was the same pay rate that the male conductors were getting. Continue reading