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Upton Park station has a new plaque, dedicated to one of the tube's pioneering women.
Incredibly, and perhaps shamefully, London Underground had no female drivers until 1978. The first was Hannah Dadds (1941-2011).
Dadds was born in Forest Gate, and served as a 'railwoman' at nearby Upton Park station from 1969. A plaque unveiled today (31 May 2019) marks her achievements.
After almost a decade working for London Transport, Dadds finally got to sit in the driver's seat. Her change of role was helped by the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, which removed obnoxious barriers to female employment.
During her career, Dadds drove trains on the District, Bakerloo and Jubilee lines. As the new plaque attests, she sometimes worked alongside her sister Edna, who served as a guard (when tube trains still had them). She retired in 1993.
The new plaque was unveiled with Dadds' friends and family in attendance. Dadd's niece, Vivian Parsons, spoke at the unveiling and shared some insights into her aunt's experiences:
When she first started, there were no ladies toilets in the drivers’ mess – she used to have to wait for the toilet to be empty. She didn’t expect the male drivers to make any exceptions for her and made a point of saying they did not need to watch their language or take down their images of women off the walls. She made the effort to fit into what was a man’s world rather than make demands – she wanted to show she did not need any allowances made for her because she was a woman. She made sure she was accepted as a driver – not a token female driver and there was no special treatment.
Also speaking at the event, Chris Taggart, head of line operations for the District line, paid tribute:
It’s great to commemorate Hannah’s achievements as part of the celebration of 150 years of the District line. The history of the tube is made up of influential and courageous people who have worked on it, and Hannah is one of those. It’s important that while we continue to modernise the network, with the District line part of the huge upgrade set to finish in 2023, we also continue to recognise and mark the history of the Underground.
Images courtesy of Transport for London.