and an Employment Application for a Prospective Pullman Maid, 1928
March is Women's History Month and we decided to write a blog about the overlooked story of Pullman Maids, the African American women who (for about 50 years) worked alongside their male brethren (Pullman Porters) and saw to the needs of female passengers as maids and female attendants on certain Pullman Sleeper cars.
During the early 1900s, the peak of luxury travel by rail in the U.S., Pullman Maids offered extra Pullman services on trains noted for their luxury. Some of these trains included the '20th-Century Limited' of the New York Central RR, the 'Broadway Limited' of the Pennsylvania RR, the 'Crescent Limited' (pictured) of the Southern Railway, or the 'Chief' of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. Pullman Maids helped white female passengers with a variety of tasks, including bathing, manicures, hair dressing, stenographic / secretarial services and, of course, childcare. The decrease in sleeper car service (due to railroad line bankruptcies because of competition from airlines) led to a sharp decline in both Pullman Porters as well as Pullman Maids by the 1960s.
A google search for "Pullman Porter" yields many results, including books, articles, museums / exhibits and websites about these former slaves George Pullman hired shortly after the Civil War to work on his fleet of sleeper cars.
Search results are quite different for "Pullman Maid." The first result describes a cleaning service in Pullman, Washington.
Even the Interrail blog, Women and the Railroad Industry, which we shared earlier this month, neglects to even mention the role of Pullman Maids. To its credit, it does include pictures of both black and white railway workers.