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‘I feel like superwoman’: Meet San Francisco’s newest cable car gripwoman

San Francisco has been running its iconic cable cars for 149 years. Yet in that time, there have been just four gripwomen—and the latest addition to the crew, Catrena Brown, joined the few and far between ranks this February.

The role requires endurance, good reflexes and people skills—not to mention strength. A major part of the job is keeping the speed of the 15,000-pound cable car consistent as it dips down any one of San Francisco’s archetypal hills. 

“You’re pulling on the brake all day long,” said Brown.

For Brown, that physical challenge, plus the low number of gripwomen in San Francisco's cable car history, is why she decided to “knock down barriers” in the first place.

“I would tell other women that wanted to do this job—set your mind to it. You can do it. Keep your mind focused on what you want to do and anything is possible,” said Brown.

Sophie Bearman can be reached at