Victorian London - Transport - Road - Omnibuses - Ladies on Omnibuses


SIR - I am a great Omnibus-Traveller, because I am poor, and the Omnibus is the poor man's carriage.
    "These carriages, however, are very far from perfect. Amongst many other drawbacks, I will mention one: THE LADIES.
    "I maintain that Ladies have no right in Omnibuses at all. They never were intended for them, and at first no Lady had the face to get into an Omnibus. She would as soon have thought of walking into a Divan - or a Billiard-room-or the Athenaeum - or an one of our clubs. Omnibuses, I lay down, were built for men, and by men they ought exclusively to be filled.
    "At present Ladies are interlopers - intruders - and I should not wonder if in time they do not make it a favour to let us ride in our own vehicles. As it is I never get into an Omnibus that I see filled with the lovely sex. I could no more do it than I could pass the day in Exeter Hall.
    "In the first place, I detest babies in any shape - quiet or noisy. If they are quiet, they play with your shirt-frill, or your watch-chain - if they are noisy, they kick your whiskers.
    "Now, Sir, it is pretty evident, that if there were no Ladies in an Omnibus, there would be no babies. By excluding the one, you virtually slam the door in the face of the other. I would have babies pay double fare, and twins should not be admitted at any price.
    "There are other complaints, however, just as loud as the babies;- which I do not object to, if they happen to be asleep, and you are not requested to hold them on your lap. But a Lady takes up twice as much room as a gentleman. Look at her dress! What with her hoops, and her flounces, and pelisses, victorines, mantalines, crinolines, and a thousand other lines, I defy her not to take room for two, at least. The consequence is, we have to suffer. If there are two ladies on the same side, you will see the gentlemen run up into a corner at the end, packed together as tight as a pack of cards.
    "Besides, every lady who gets into an Omnibus has an inseparable attachment for a bundle, a bandbox, a birdcage, and a parcel of some sort or other, which ought properly to have gone by the Parcels' Delivery Company. These parcels are always in the gentlemen's way - and if you happen to put your foot accidentally into a bandbox, you are sure never to hear the last of it, till you have left the Omnibus. Do what you will to oblige the women, they are never satisfied.
    "There is but one remedy for this state of things, Sir, and with your leave I now hasten to propose it:-
    "There are carriages exclusively for the Ladies on the railways, why should not the same system be adopted in our streets with our public vehicles?
    "The conductor should be a lady-the driver should be a Lady.
    "The roof inside might be ornamented with baby-jumpers - or else the roof outside provided with cradles - for the convenience of the dear babies.
    "The interior should be lined with looking-glasses.
    "Accommodation might be given for knitting, sewing, and crochet-work.
    "At the end of the vehicle, should be exhibited on an embossed card with little raised Cupids kissing one another, and tastefully decorated with ribbons, the following placard:- NO SCANDAL ALLOWED.
    "To prevent disputes, every Lady should pay her fare on getting in, and no money to be returned upon the Lady suddenly discovering she is going in an opposite direction to that which she intended.
    "A stringent law should be made that no Lady is to keep the Omnibus waiting more than five minutes, while she is searching in every pocket, bag, and reticule, 'for her change.' n
    "Only one bundle to be allowed to each Lady.
    "A separate Omnibus to run every Saturday and Monday, for the convenience of washerwomen and their baskets.
    "A whole dictionary of names will instantly suggest itself for such Omnibuses. There is 'Paradise,' 'The Boudoir,' 'The Nursery,' 'The Parasol,' 'The Reindeer,' The Bonnet-box,' 'The Whispering Gallery,'  'The Ladies' Drawing Room,' (for such it literally would be,) and many more I would be happy to supply.
    I am sure such a vehicle would be hailed by all classes-but by the Ladies more especially - as an immense improvement upon our present plan of mixed Omnibuses. It would be pleasanter for the Ladies, and much more comfortable to the gentlemen. The former would avoid many insult, and robberies, and the latter a hundred inconveniences in the shape of wet umbrellas, dirty pattens, and teething children, - to say nothing of being continually called upon to go outside (during a shower of rain) to 'oblige a lady.'  I should like to see a lady ever doing the same for a gentleman!
    "I remain, Sir,
        "(And intend remaining so as long as I can,)
            "AN OLD BACHELOR, Aet. 62."

Punch 1840s [sorry, lost date! ed.]


    "I AM a great Omnibus Traveller - not by necessity but by choice. Omnibuses are crowded, and probably always will be crowded, with nuisances; but of all nuisances none are so sharp, or being so continually thrust in gentlemen's faces, as ladies' parasols. I have noticed that every lady who enters an omnibus is sure to bring in a parasol with her. She may not carry a bundle, either dead or alive, in the shape of a baby,- she may, perhaps, be without a bird-cage,- she may, by some curious chance, be free from everything in the shape of luggage, beyond a small reticule no bigger than a gentleman's carpetbag,- but I have never yet seen the phenomenon of a lady invading an omnibus without her being duly armed with a parasol!
    "Now the parasol Sir, is the most formidable weapon of defence (and offence too, as am prepared to prove) drawn from the female arsenal of warfare. A woman without her parasol would be defenceless indeed! If a lady is annoyed by a dog or a beggar, or pursued by a mad bull, or insulted by any one in the street, the first implement brought into action is invariably the parasol. There are other means of female protection I am aware, which are not unfrequently had recourse to by the female hand, but I maintain that it is invariably 'The Parasol first; Nails afterwards.'
"But in an omnibus, this 'Female Life Preserver,' for so I call the parasol, is only used as a weapon of offence (unless a lady has more than the usual share of pride, and hides her face with her parasol, for fear of being seen by any of her Belgravian acquaintances inside an omnibus!) and a most offensive weapon it is too!
    "Why, the nuisance obtrudes itself every where; you cannot sit down, but a lady is sure to exclaim, 'Oh! Please, Sir, take care of my parasol!' You cannot arrange your legs, any how, without an overgrown umbrella (but which, by courtesy, is promoted to the rank of a parasol) finding itself between them; and you are asked by the lady opposite 'if you are aware that is her parasol?' You cannot turn to the right or to the left, but there is certain to be at either turn the point of a parasol ready to dot your eye. If you are sitting at the end seat it is fifty times worse. You are then sitting in a prickly bush of parasols. or, to come nearer the mark, your head seems to be revolving inside a large wheel, of which the ladies' parasols are, the spokes, and your nose the axle.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1850