The Women Of The USPS On 'Stuff Mom Never Told You'

The United States Postal Service has been in the news a lot lately, due to the new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, making controversial decisions about cutting carriers’ overtime pay and removing thousands of sorting machines, leading to significant delivery delays. Since a Congressional hearing in August, some of these changes have been put on hold until after the November election. But with so much attention and interest directed at the post office, Stuff Mom Never Told You hosts Anney and Samantha thought it would be a good time to look at the history of the USPS, particularly the history of women working for the service, and the sometimes epic stories of women mail carriers that include daring river rescues and horsewhipping highway robbers.

The U.S. Postal Service was formed by George Washington in 1775, making it older than the country itself. Even in its earliest days, there were women postmasters, but it wasn’t until 1845 that a woman, Sarah Black, was recorded actually delivering the mail. But the legends are epic: They tell us about Polly Martin, the first woman to carry mail in Massachusetts in the 1860s; she was accosted once along her mail route by a highway robber, who received nothing but a horsewhip to the face for his trouble. The first known Black woman to carry mail, Mary Fields in the 1890s, was well-known for drinking and smoking cigars, being a great shot, and also being very kind. She was such a legendary figure in her Montana town that when she passed, both the local papers put her obituary on the front page. And there’s the riveting tale of Etta E. Bolton in Mobile Alabama, whose route took her across a swollen stream on a rickety bridge. Halfway across, the bridge broke, plunging herself, her horse, her wagon, and all the mail into the river. She fought the current to shore, but turned around and plunged right back into the water, rescuing every single piece of mail. As Samantha says, “There should be a movie!” 

Anney and Samantha follow the timeline of female mail carriers, postmasters, and postmaster generals (the first woman to serve was in 2015); the first women to make air mail drops or serve in the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the fights for equal pay and leadership positions; the laws preventing women from moving up in the service out of fear that they would be unmarriageable; even a fight to add skirts as an option to the postal uniform. Hear all this fascinating history about women and the essential U.S. Postal Service on this episode of Stuff Mom Never Told You.

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