Nashville PRIDE celebrates Women’s History Month

Elizabeth Duff (c), with husband and Assessor Vivian Wilhoite in 2018, holding a proclamation honoring her for her service. (photo by Marcus Jones)

The Nashville PRIDE proudly acknowledges the month of March as Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month which is observed in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia in March, and in October in Canada, began with a single day. It was officially commemorated by the United Nations in 1975 and was officially recognized by the UN two years later. President Jimmy Carter designated the first official National Women’s History Week, beginning on March 8 of 1980. The National Women’s History Alliance began declaring the whole month of March as Women’s History Month from 1980 to 1986. Until Congress declared the month of March in 1987 as the first official Women’s History Month.

The Nashville PRIDE will be honoring Women’s History Month all month beginning with Elizabeth Duff. Duff was the first female bus driver on a Nashville city bus. Duff recently passed away of COVID-19.

Duff was born in 1949 in Nashville. As a young African American girl, Duff often had to be pulled by her mother to the back of Nashville segregated buses. She vowed someday she would sit up front, all the way to the driver’s seat.

Duff said the she was always intrigued by the city busses, and as a kid she would just sit on the bus and watch the driver do his job. Her first driving job was with Chevrolet Courtesy Car, and it was one of her clients that put the bug in her ear about driving for MTA.

George Atwood was the supervisor when she applied. He gave her the chance she needed to open the door for other women to follow suit at a time when many professions did not welcome women. But the men at MTA were not a part of that tradition.

“The men were very helpful and made it easy for the transition,” said Duff. “On my first day after training, I was torn all up and my nerves were shot. I even went the wrong direction. But my coworkers and customers said I never showed it on my face.”

MTA customers, however, did not like the idea of a woman bus driver. But Elizabeth took the hate and let it motivate her to do her best. Duff, a mother of three and grandmother of six, worked over 40 years for MTA.

In 2004, the mother of three was named ‘Tennessee’s Urban Driver’ of the year. When asked about her passion for driving Duff said: “I love the feel of it. I love to hear the sound of it. When you really drive, you feel the vehicle itself. You listened to the motor and you feel the road.”

Elizabeth Duff

Amalgamated Transit Union 1235 mourns loss of Elizabeth Duff

The local transit union is mourning the loss of Nashvile’s first Black female bus operator, Elizabeth Duff, who has died from COVID-19 complications.

According to Amalgamated Transit Union 1235, Duff joined MTA as a driver in 1974 and worked there over 40 years.

Following retirement, she was honored in 2018 for her service. Duff also received multiple awards from MTA and a proclamation from the Davidson County Property Acessor Vivian Wilhoite.

“Mrs. Duff was a beloved member of the local, and her loss will be deeply felt by all its members,” ATU 1235 said in a statement. “Please keep the family in your prayers.”

Duff was a mother to three and grandmother to six.