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

Helen Keller And Al Smith 1929

New York State Commission For The Blind Christmas Fundraiser 1929

Helen Keller Al Smith 1929

This news photograph reads:

Helen Keller “Sees” And “Hears” Al Smith — World Famous Blind Deaf-Mute Meets Ex-Governor For First Time At Sale Benefiting The Blind

New York City – Photo Shows: Helen Keller, remarkable and world-famous blind deaf-mute “seeing” and “hearing”former Gov. Alfred E. Smith, who is greeting her with his famous smile and a word of cheer at the annual Christmas sale for the benefit of the New York State Commission for the Blind. Witnesses at the meeting of the famous people said that Miss Keller’s words could be understood. – December 19, 1929

Helen Keller was deaf and blind from infancy. She was born in Alabama on June 27, 1880.  Early in her childhood Miss Anne Sullivan was employed to instruct her, and so well succeeded that by means of touch she was able to communicate knowledge of the world that was closed to her understanding through the usual senses.

Helen Keller’s sense of touch was so acute that she was capable of understanding the speech of another merely by the placing of her fingertips upon their throat. Through the aid of Miss Sullivan, Keller became a highly educated young woman, earning a degree at Radcliffe College. She would go on to write 12 books and many magazine articles. She devoted her life advocating for people with disabilities.

Keller’s childhood story and that of her teacher Anne Sullivan, was told quite dramatically in the Broadway smash The Miracle Worker which ran for 719 performances from 1959-1961. The show won five Tony awards in 1960 including Best Actress in a Leading Performance for Anne Bancroft.  The1962 movie version featured the Broadway stars reprising their roles; Patty Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan. Each won an Academy Award for their performances; Bancroft for Best Actress and Duke for Best Supporting Actress.

Alfred E. Smith was born December 30, 1873 on the lower east side of New York. He was elected Governor of New York, 1919-1920 and again from 1923-1928. In 1928 he became the first Roman Catholic to run for President and was defeated soundly by Herbert Hoover.  After the election Smith became president of Empire State, Inc. the firm that built the Empire State Building.

Al Smith died on October 4, 1944. Helen Keller passed away June 1, 1968.