The First World War marked the beginning of a major social revolution, which among other developments, saw women enter the realm of what had previously been seen as 'mens work', in argriculture, industires and transport. In the transport sector for example this meant that the public encountered women working on trains and buses on a daily basis and were the most visible example of the aforementioned revolution.
Mrs G. Duncan was the first woman conductor in London. She started work with Thomas Tilling Company on 1 November 1915 ( source: http://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk/ltm-1998-39105). In Derby the circumstances which led to the first opportunities for women to work as conductors 'Duckies' were also begining to emerge. The War had taken its toll and some 70 to 80 of the tramways committee employees , though not yet conscrioted, were "in khaki", so a decision was made on November 20, 1915, to advertise for female conductors aged between 21 and 35 and, surprisingly, at wage rates the same as for the men.
Florence Dawson, of Wimbush Avenue, Allenton, was one of the first six women to be recruited in 1915. She completed her training and first stood on the tram platform ready to carry on with the job independently on Christmas Eve 1915.
Amid unfounded ‘concerns’ that women would have problems climbing the stairs o tramcars would end in disaster worries about the decency and safety of omen getting home after late shifts and beng nicknamed the ‘fare sex’ women should whould their capabilities
Another Derby Corporation female conductor, Gertrude Harris, led a revolt by the newly-recruited women against part of their uniform the long skirts, totally impracticable for climbing the stairs, liable to get sodden and filthy with the ordure that covered the streets and dragging in every puddle when it rained, these skirts were an obvious encumbrance. Gertrude and others decided to cut off a few inches, thus heightening the hem, and were disciplined for doing so.
Despite the fact that the number of women taken on swelled to 62, all were "displaced" (what a marvellous euphemism) on November 1, 1919. So came to an end the first phase of female employment on Derby's public transport system. In January 1940, female conductors were once more employed on a "temporary basis" after 72 men left the department to fight for their country.
In addition, one must make it clear that the employment of women in these traditional male roles as conductors etc, was largley expedient rather than and real recognition of women as equals. Indeed women would not considered for emplyment as bus inpsectors, even when vacance remained unfilled, until much later. However what had begun was a change that was slowly but surely built on and by the event of WW II in May 1943 the decision was made to employ women in Derby as trolley bus drivers.
Thus collectivey these women like Grace Lloyd, Gertrude Harris, Florence Dawson and their 59 colleagues were indeed pioneers who helped to pave the way for the many genrations of women who would come after them.