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Huge mural at railway station celebrates pioneering woman train driver: 'In 1979, it was a big deal'

She was mistaken for a man and got the job interview but faced several forms of discrimination throughout her life.

Huge mural at railway station celebrates pioneering woman train driver: 'In 1979, it was a big deal'
Image Source: Youtube/Rags Martel

The feminist movement has progressed a lot over the last century and women are more confident working in male-dominated fields. Driving trains is certainly one of them. Recently, the United Kingdom honored its first women train drivers in the country. A mural celebrating these magnificent women was recently unveiled in London, per BBC. The picture of Karen Harrison drawn at Euston was commissioned by Avanti West Coast.



Harrison was raised in Finchley, north London and was born in Glasgow, where her sister expressed the hope that Ms. Harrison would continue to "inspire women to undertake train driving." The mural is a part of the operator's campaign for a fifth of new recruits to be women. In 1977, Ms. Harrison submitted a train driver application to British Rail using the name K Harrison. Under the impression that she was a guy and later offered an interview. Although she attained a full qualification in 1979, she was subjected to prejudice, with colleagues refusing to cooperate with her and her locker being vandalized.

She passed away in 2011 as a mature student at the University of Oxford, where she was pursuing a career as a labor law specialist barrister. Avanti West Coast received permission from her family to hire street artist Akse to create the painting. Marie Harrison, her sister, said, "Akse's mural captures that independence of spirit and a fierce determination not only to secure her own place in the rail industry but to ensure that other women could follow her path." She added, "We hope that she continues to inspire women to consider train driving, the job that she loved and fought for so passionately."




The artist described painting Harrison as an "honor." He said, "I hope her image will live long in the memories of the public and that what she accomplished will never be forgotten." One percent of the 120 new trainee drivers at Avanti West Coast, the company stated, ought to be female. By 2030, it seeks to achieve an even gender distribution among new hires. According to the company, 13% of its drivers are female, compared to 6.5% of train drivers in Britain, according to a 2019 Aslef research.

The company has announced that it would increase the length of its job postings from 24 hours to seven days since it has discovered that women like to have more information and time to think about the driving role before submitting an application. Mick Whelan, Aslef's general secretary, said, "Train drivers should, we think, represent the communities we serve and that's why we need more women in the driver's cab."




Huw Merriman, Rail Minister, told ITV, "Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of every successful industry, which is why we're so committed to creating a railway that's reflective of our great nation." He added, "Avanti West Coast's campaign will go a long way in helping to achieve this and I'm confident Karen Harrison's mural will act as a reminder of the vitally important work she and others across the industry have done to pave the way for women." 

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