Minnesota Historical Society M-Flame Logo
Photograph of motorette boarding a streetcar

Motorette Helen Murphy

Motorette Helen Murphy, St. Paul, 1946.

photograph of three uniformed motorettes

Motorettes Marie Hagen, Bernice Nelson, and Verna Fox

Motorettes Marie Hagen (left), Bernice Nelson, and Verna Fox at Lake Street Station, Twenty-first Avenue South and Lake Street, Minneapolis, 1945.

photograph of a streetcar at a station

Motorette operating a streetcar, c. 1945

A streetcar operated by a motorette in Willernie, c.1945.

photograph of uniformed motorette

Motorette Helen Murphy

Motorette Helen Murphy at the Snelling Station, Snelling and University Avenues, St. Paul, about 1945.

motorette newspaper advertisement

World War II motorette advertisement

A newspaper ad recruiting women to operate streetcars, 1944.

photograph of a group of uniformed streetcar conductresses

Duluth streetcar conductresses

The Duluth Street Railway hired twenty-one women as streetcar conductors (or "conductresses," as they termed them) in 1918. Some of them posed outside the streetcar barn at Twenty-sixth Avenue West and Superior Street for this photo taken June 21, 1918.

World War II motorettes

Three of the first motorettes report for work at Nicollet Station, Thirty-first Street and Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, 1943.

photograph of two female streetcar operators

Female streetcar operators

This photo taken about 1918 is the only known picture of women who ran streetcars in Minneapolis during World War I. The numbers on the hats indicate that the one on the left is a conductor (even number) and that the one on the right is a motorette (odd number). The numbers imply that the women were based at the North Side Station, Twenty-fourth Avenue North and Washington Avenue, Minneapolis.


Before World War II, operating streetcars was considered a man’s job. A 1916 Twin City Rapid Transit (TCRT) report shows sixty-eight female employees out of a workforce of 4,300, and those few were telephone operators and clerical office workers.

Car stopped at Fifth-Sixth Station

Car stopped at Fifth-Sixth Station

Looking down the Incline at a car stopped at the Fifth-Sixth Street station, 1933.


Subscribe to RSS - Transportation