Pioneering Purser

Judy Smyth (1939-2009) joined P&O from the WRNS in 1961. A year later she went to sea as a Junior Women Assistant Purser (JWAP) and by 1968 she had moved up the ranks to Senior WAP. Judy was keen to continue rising but, at that time, the Company curtailed the careers of their female officers at 40.  


Judy demonstrated that she was professional, persistent, competent and completely committed to her career.  And she was experienced - nearly fifteen years “in the ranks”. A battle was gently brewing in the Bureau…


Judy’s plight highlighted that opportunities for P&O’s women were severely restricted. But, by 1976, the Company was bound by equal opportunities legislation and the new Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, introduced in International Womens Year.


In a significant outcome, for both employee and employer, Judy became the first female ‘Bureau Manager’ in 1977. A triumph she topped by becoming P&O’s first Woman Purser in 1990.

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Pioneering Purser