The short life of NYC’s women-only subway cars

Posted On Tue, November 7, 2017 By

Posted On Tue, November 7, 2017 By In City Living, History

Image credit: Museum of the City of New York.

In dealing with the examples of ill-behaved humanity that still plague the city’s subway today, the powers that be in 1909 thought they were doing the ladies a favor when they suggested the addition of women-only subway cars, according to Ephemeral New York. Called “suffragette” cars (though women didn’t win the right to vote in New York until 1917) they were introduced on trains of the Hudson Tubes running from Manhattan to Hoboken (today’s PATH line). In trial runs, the last car in each train was reserved for women. Officials of the five-year-old IRT line began considering the idea–thought to be a success in its earliest trials–for the New York City subway.

Reactions were mixed, even among women: The Women’s Municipal League liked the idea, while others found it impractical and unnecessary. The idea was nixed after months of discussion.

Officials had concluded that since even women weren’t too keen on the idea, the segregated cars were less of a success than originally thought. A 1909 New York Times article echoes this in a quote from a city official: “Almost an equal number of people (to the advocates of women’s cars) stated that men are the best protection that women have in a crowded car, and that they prefer to ride in cars where men and women are together, that while there are rare occasions when some brute will take advantage of the situation to insult a lady, on the other hand the gentlemen are the best protection the ladies want against such conduct.”

[Via Ephemeral New York]

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