Evening Post newspaper archive)

Marking 80 years since the first women drivers in the West of England

A new competition has been launched to commemorate 80 years since the first women drivers got behind the wheel of buses in the West of England.

This April marks eight decades since Mrs V Hoyes passed her official driving test, making her Bristol’s first female bus driver, and therefore marking a major change in Bristol’s public transport workforce.

Now, Bristol’s main bus operator, First West of England, is giving the public the chance to mark this milestone moment by creating a design to cover an entire double decker bus.

The anniversary comes close to International Women’s Day on March 8, when it is hoped the winning design can be revealed.

Amanda Eastaugh, Operations Director for First West of England, said: “Although we have come a long way since our first female colleagues started driving Bristol buses in 1944, according to national figures, while more than half of bus passengers are women, only about 10 per cent of people in our industry are female. And I’m proud to be one of those, at a senior level, here in the West of England.

“It’s for that reason that we must do what we can to help break stereotypes and encourage more women into the industry. Marking this anniversary in such a high-profile way will help show that as a woman you can be an engineer, a manager, a bus driver or any other role we have available; there is no reason why your gender should be a barrier to working in the bus industry.”

According to the Evening Post in March 1944: “Bristol is among the first of the major towns of the country to train women for this work, and it will be greatly to their credit if they come through their final tests under such difficult driving conditions as exist in the city.”

Those wanting to enter the competition are being asked to consider how their design can inspire inclusion, challenge stereotypes, celebrate women’s achievements, and create positive visibility.

The design-a-bus competition is open to everyone, and the winner will see their artwork transform one of Bristol’s double decker buses, as well as receiving a year’s bus travel with First West of England - a prize worth more than £1,000.

The deadline for entries is Monday 4 March. Entries must be sent to bristolmarketing@firstbus.co.uk, and designs can be hand or digitally drawn, and can feature digital photography.

More details about the competition and how to enter can be found on the First West of England website.

The competition comes hot off the heels of last year’s successful design to mark the 60th anniversary of the Bristol Bus Boycott, which was designed by artist Alissa Thaler and depicted the story of the pioneers who fought to end racial discrimination in the bus industry.

Notes to editors

PIC: Mrs V Hoyes passed her official driving test, and on 6 April, 1944, boarded a vehicle to become Bristol’s first female bus driver (Credit: Evening Post newspaper archive)

Women drivers in Bristol

The honour of the first women behind the wheel went to Mrs V Hoyes who on April 6, 1944 passed her official driving test and took on her duties as the first female driver.

While more than half of bus customers are women, only about 10 per cent of the people who work in the bus industry are women, according to Women in Bus and Coach.

Latest figures from First West of England show that 12% of employees are women.