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History in Motion

Woman's History Month
Friday, March 29, 2019

As we wrap up Woman's History Month, we would like to mention several other heroes that helped shape the face of transportation in our City.

Almost a hundred years earlier than Rosa Parks’ bold action in Alabama, right here in San Francisco, a young African-American woman named Charlotte Brown fought public segregation in transit.

Charllote Brown

Brown wanted to ride one of the Omnibus Railroad Company’s horse-drawn streetcars (owned by a private company that preceded the public system). But because of her race, she was not allowed onboard. Brown took the company to court—twice—and won.

Also in 1860s San Francisco, noted African-American entrepreneur Mary Ellen Pleasant had the same experience. She was refused a ride on a streetcar operated by a private company. She also challenged streetcar segregation and took her case successfully all the way to the California Supreme Court.

Mary Ellen Pleasant

These two women helped to change California history, and we’re still focused on providing equitable service in the city—see our Muni Service Equity Strategy.

And when we talk about notable women in San Francisco transit history, we also think of Maya Angelou. Hailed as San Francisco’s first black female streetcar conductor, Angelou wrote in her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” about overcoming racism and sexism to get a job with Muni at the age of 16.

Maya Angelou

To honor these three local heroes, we invite you to join us in celebrating their local contributions to equity and inclusion. We’re celebrating these three San Francisco transit pioneers with a Muni campaign that feature their stories, “#MuniShero.”

When you encounter this campaign on your commute, let us know by using the hashtag #MuniShero.