The Women of Maida Vale Step Up to Keep the Tube Station Open

June 6, 1915

In England’s capital city, a new station was formally opened as part of the rapid transit system known as the London Underground (also called the Underground, or the Tube). The station was built in northwest London’s Maida Vale residential district and is specifically located at the junction of Randolph and Elgin Avenues. The station serves the London Underground’s Bakerloo line.

The Maida Vale tube station’s surface building was designed by the prolific architect Stanley A. Heaps on behalf of the Underground Electric Railways Company of London. This facility was one of the first of the system’s stations created to accommodate escalators.

The Maida Vale station made its debut at a time when England had already been embroiled in World War I for nearly a year. With many of the local men fighting in the war, the facility at Maida Vale made transportation history as the first London Underground station to be staffed entirely by women.

This pioneering role performed by women received worldwide attention at the time. The California-based Santa Ana Register, in a July 1915 editorial entitled “London Women Active,” highlighted the female employees of the Maida Vale station by quoting from a first-hand account of wartime England published in the American magazine The Nation. “We are now quite accustomed to buy our suburban railway tickets from and have them clipped by smart-looking women,” stated that excerpt from The Nation.

The women employed at the Maida Vale station continued to work there until 1919 when servicemen returning from the war took over those jobs. Nonetheless, the trailblazing contributions made by those women are still remembered and honored in England today. In addition, a larger-than-average number of women again had the opportunity to work at the London Underground stations during World War II.

The Maida Vale station has also achieved fame through its appearances in several movies. These movies include Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 silent drama “Downhill,” which featured shots of the original wooden escalators installed at the station; and the 2014 live-action/animated comedy “Paddington.”

In 2009, the Maida Vale station received England’s National Railway Heritage Award (London Regional category) for extensive renovations that managed to preserve the historic appearance and character of the facility.  “’This award highlights the hard work by our staff to maintain the history of the station at the same time as modernizing it to a high standard for the thousands of people that use the Tube every day,” said Richard Parry, managing director for the London Underground. In 2015, high-profile celebrations of the station’s centennial were held as part of the 100 Years of Women in Transport campaign taking place in England that year.

For more information on the London Underground’s Maida Vale tube station, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maida_Vale_tube_station.

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