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New York's First Female Cab Driver Is Awesome

Illustration for article titled New Yorks First Female Cab Driver Is Awesome

Where is the movie about ninety-six year-old Gertrude Hadley Jeanette? Not only was she New York City's first female cab driver, she was also the first female licensed motorcyclist. And that was before a distinguished theater career, and as a black woman in profoundly racist times.

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Here's what she told The Daily News of her first day as a cabbie in 1942, when she pitched in during a male driver shortage circa World War II:

"Stupid me. [I] pulled up in front of the Waldorf-Astoria," the Harlem pioneer said. "In those days they didn't allow black drivers to work downtown. You had to work uptown."
... A cabbie in a green Checker cab tried to cut in front of her. Finally, she'd had enough.

"I rammed my fender under his fender, swung it over to the right and ripped it!" she said.

She broke her silence, telling the angry driver: "You tried to cut in front of me, I couldn't stop."

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By speaking up, she'd blown her cover as a woman driver, having worn her hair up in a hat. The same one, we assume, she's jauntily wearing in the above photo.

Meet Gertrude Hadley Jeanette, New York City's 1st Female Cab Driver [NYDN]
Gertrude Jeannette receives Equity's Paul Robeson Award [Actors Equity]

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DISCUSSION

At a job I had in my 20s I made friends with the custodian in our courthouse. She had also been one of the first women cab drivers in NYC—bet she and Gertrude Jeannette knew each other!

She passed away about ten years ago, after I left the job. I adored her—her stories were so fascinating!