Prior to World War I, a small percentage of women worked for railroad companies as maids, car cleaners, and telegraph operators. The B&O hired its first women as car cleaners in 1855. As men left to fight overseas in the world wars however, the nation's railroads called upon the service of female labor. Usually young and single, women filled many positions including track workers, yard workers, machinists, station agents, train operators, telephone operators, statisticians, lawyers, yard police, clerks, designers and engineers. The number of female laborers decreased as men returned from the war, but many nevertheless continued their employment as "white collar" workers in the offices and as stewardesses.
Women laborers during World War I featured in the Baltimore & Ohio Employee's Magazine in May 1917.
Female shop workers, circa 1943.
African-American female car cleaners, circa 1943.
African-American women were hired by railroad companies as maids, car cleaners, laundresses, and porterettes. In 1926 the Pullman Palace Car Manufacturing Company hired 200 maids for long distance trains. Maids were expected to provide manicures, hairdressing, child care, cleaning, and any other services necessary to female passengers. On the west coast, Pullman also
hired Chinese women as maids.
Reflecting on attitudes towards women as caretakers, stewardesses were responsible for the safety, comfort and pleasure of passengers and their children. The B&O's first train hostesses were hired in the 1890s to serve special guests. After World War II, railroads increased the number of stewardesses on trains.