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Don’t lean on me, man

December 29, 2010

Last night we finished watching the first (and perhaps last) season of Boardwalk Empire. The fact that we made it through 12 episodes tells you that it was pretty good, but if it never came back I can’t say I’d really miss it. It’s interesting, and the acting is very good, but it just lacks something. Not a lot of verve, no humor whatsoever, it’s just kind of a wan little show — which is hard to do in a story that revolves around gangsters and bootlegging. All of that said, the best part is the historical setting in the teens and twenties of last century. One of the major backdrops is the ratification of the 19th Amendment. So that’s what makes today’s post timely for me.

Ephemeral New York posts a story about something that I had never heard of. Apparently, the PATH-precursor “Hudson Tubes” had test runs of single-gender subway cars in the early 1900’s.

And test runs of these single-sex subway cars—the last car in each train reserved for women only during rush hours—were also deemed a success. So much of a success, IRT officials considered the idea for the then–five year old New York City subway.

One women’s group, the Women’s Municipal League, supported the idea, while a host of others opposed it, stating that it was impractical and unnecessary.

After months of debate, the idea was abandoned. Officials decided that the Hudson Tube women-only cars weren’t that successful after all, and that women didn’t want them anyway.

Said one official in an August 1909 New York Times article:

“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.”

Huh. Who knew? Well, in any event, I’m pretty sure that New York’s ladies have generally handled the brutes on the subway pretty handily.  Hell, check out this chick who told off some scumbag exposing himself while someone else was videotaping the exchange and informed the P.O.S. that “this shit’s going on YouTube, yo.”

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