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Thursday, May 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: With men sent to fight World War I, Davenport Hotel hires first ‘girl elevator operators’ in the U.S.

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 20, 2017, 6:20 a.m.

Recently hired elevator operators at the Davenport Hotel were “the first full crew of girl elevator operators in the employ of a hotel anywhere in the United States,” The Spokesman-Review reported on Dec. 20, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Recently hired elevator operators at the Davenport Hotel were “the first full crew of girl elevator operators in the employ of a hotel anywhere in the United States,” The Spokesman-Review reported on Dec. 20, 1918. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The Davenport Hotel introduced a startling innovation: A crew of “girl elevator operators.”

They were, said the paper, “the first full crew of girl elevator operators in the employ of a hotel anywhere in the United States.”

Why did the Davenport replace the usual elevator boys with elevator girls? There were two main reasons, said Louis Davenport.

“Owing to the fact that a great number of young men are being called to the colors (the military), we have found considerable difficulty in keeping elevator boys long enough to train them to carry out our service ideals properly. Aside from that. our experiments have convinced us that young women can not only do this work as well as the boys, but they are better able, as a rule, to assist in creating that home-like atmosphere we are so eager to maintain in all of our departments.”

The elevator girls were given striking “semi-military” uniforms, described in minute detail. The “dark navy blouse” would have replica of a “Sam Brown belt with shoulder strap,” similar to those worn by British officers. The cap, “which resembles the Belgian army cap, fits the head snugly.”

Davenport said this was just the beginning of a new wartime plan at the hotel, which “contemplates the employment of girls in many departments now handled exclusively by men.” He predicted the hotel would employ 100 more girls than in pre-war times.

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