Transportation advocates hail Maya Angelou as streetcar pioneer

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Transportation advocates are mourning the death of legendary poet and writer Maya Angelou, who they said was "San Francisco’s first African American streetcar conductor" in addition to being a famous author.

Angelou died Wednesday at age 86.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) union said Angelou was a pioneer for women in transit before she became a world-renowned writer and civil rights activist.

"The ATU family joins a nation in mourning the loss of renowned poet Dr. Maya Angelou. Her achievements as a novelist, educator, producer, actress and civil rights activist enriched and advanced America’s cultural life," ATU President Larry Hanley said in a statement. 

“What many may not know about the life of this Renaissance woman is that Dr. Angelou was San Francisco’s first African American streetcar conductor," Hanley continued. "While no one would even give her an application, she waited patiently and with resolve for two weeks until she got the job – shattering the glass ceiling for women in transit."

The Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for women in transportation careers, WTS International, posted a similar message about Angelou on its Facebook page.

"Rest in peace, Maya Angelou," the group wrote. "A remarkable woman who was not only an amazing poet but also the first African American female conductor on San Francisco’s famed cable cars."

The ATU's Hanley said Angelou was an inspiration to his transit union's membership.

"Dr. Angelou was on the front lines during the Civil Rights movement helping Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, TN and as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Council," Hanley said. "As a champion for the disenfranchised and a drum major for justice, we can honor her extraordinary life by continuing to be driven by her words of wisdom: ‘We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.’ ”