First female cable car operator’s story coming to a theater near you

At age 52, Fannie Barnes, the now-retired Sacramento resident, became the first woman to operate a San Francisco cable car as a grip. Her story was made into a short documentary that will premiere at the 10th annual LUNAFEST at the Herbst Theater on Thursday. 

Why were there were no female grips before you? It requires a certain amount of upper-body strength, which a lot of women lack. The cable car weighs 8 tons, or 16,000 pounds, when empty, so it’s very difficult to stop.

How did it feel to qualify? It felt absolutely marvelous! When you’re a female doing something that’s male dominated and you become the first female to accomplish that position, it really makes you feel good. I hope that other women will realize that it’s a job that’s very much open to them.

What was the reaction of male drivers? I had more supporters than people against me. Some men were betting money that I would not qualify, but it just made me want to qualify even more.

What are you doing now that you are retired? I’ve been doing a lot of work in Africa. I’m involved with the Ghana Women’s and Children’s Collective. We opened up a school for 1,000 kids, brought them electricity, Internet, three computers and a printer.

shaughey@sfexaminer.com

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