Retro Action, March 22, 1907: Dressing in Drag Is a la Mode for Paris Cabbies

Mar 22, 2011
Originally from Baltimore, Oliver lives and writes on a quiet, tree-lined street in Brooklyn.
&39;I can do anything a woman can do. Except ask for directions.&39; (Photo: Flickr/Star1950)

If you've ever visited Paris, you learned firsthand that the city's cabbies don't pick up just anyone—thanks to a powerful union, drivers have the luxury of waiting around for a more convenient fare.  

Such was not the case in 1907. Their livelihood threatened by a sudden influx of female cab drivers—allowed behind the wheel for the first time—male cabbies went to extreme lengths to keep up with Paris's latest attraction.

"[The women] attracted the sympathy of the public, and the 'cochéres' were never without a fare and their tips were both numerous and generous," reported the New York Times

Not to be outmanned, male drivers shaved their facial hair and dressed in drag in a semi-serious attempt to compete for wages. When the fad ended a few weeks later, they returned to their normal garb (granted, a few maintained the gender deception for personal reasons). 

Here in the United States, you'd be hard pressed to find a female cabbie—only five to eight percent of taxi drivers are female. The primary reason? Driver safety. 

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