Ticket, Please! was published in 1922. The story is set during the aftermath of World War 1, so that's the historical context. Remember that the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 1920, and on Election Day in 1920, women exercised their right to vote for the very first time.
Read all about the fight for women's suffrage here.
D.H. Lawrence's short story exemplifies the change in women's status in the aftermath of the war and of women's suffrage. In the story, we see that Annie Stone is a conductress on the Midlands line. She belongs to the new group of working women who are newly empowered and independent. However, the women's new found social relevance becomes a curse: their enthusiastic embrace of masculine energy renders them unintentionally clumsy caricatures of femininity:
The girls are fearless young hussies. In their ugly blue uniforms, skirts up to their knees, shapeless old peaked caps on their heads, they have all the sang-froid of an old non-commissioned officer.
They pounce on the youths who try to evade their ticket-machine. They push off the men at the end of their distance. They are not going to be done in the eye—not they. They fear nobody—and everybody fears them.
On the other hand, the tram drivers seem to be 'rash young men, or else... invalids who creep forward in terror.' Here, Lawrence is drawing our attention to the price that we may pay for progress: the loss of gender differentiation. We are led to question whether modern concepts of gender are superior to those necessitated by traditional ideals. No where is the debate more heated than in the area of romance.
In the story, we are told that the chief inspector of the tram lines is one John Joseph Raynor. He's a good-looking cad who seduces all the female conductresses, confident in his ability to extract sexual favors from each one. Notice that he usually moves on to the next girl when the current one gets too clingy for his liking:
When she started to take an intelligent interest in him and his life and his character, he sheered off. He hated intelligent interest. And he knew that the only way to stop it was to avoid it. The possessive female was aroused in Annie. So he left her.
Here, Lawrence is highlighting the plight of the modern woman. Traditionally, a woman preserved her sexual purity for marriage, while prospective suitors had to display definitive proof that they were worthy supplicants for a woman's loyalty. However, now that women have achieved political and economic independence, men have correspondingly rejected their own traditional obligations to women. You can see this in John Raynor's nonchalance; he's not the least bit perturbed by his callous treatment of the women.
Lawrence also highlights the fact that only the cosmetic, outward conventions of gender reciprocity and respect are preserved. John Joseph pays Annie's way at the fair, but this is a very superficial sort of gallantry. It's only designed to capture Annie's interest in a sexual dalliance. Annie, on the other hand, doesn't just want a 'nocturnal presence' in her life; she wants a real companion by her side, something John Joseph isn't about to submit to.
In the end, the female conductresses get their revenge. They lure John Joseph to their dressing room at the depot station. While pretending to engage in social pleasantries, they soon turn on him and attack him brutally. The women's actions stem from their pain at being marginalized. They have given up sexual favors with little to show for them. Also, despite their revenge, the mere act of physical retribution fails to provide them the complete catharsis their hearts desire. They are still left bereft of the kind of commitment and love they desperately want.
And they began to put themselves tidy, taking down their hair, and arranging it. Annie unlocked the door. John Joseph looked round for his things. He picked up the tatters, and did not quite know what to do with them. Then he found his cap, and put it on, and then his overcoat. He rolled his ragged tunic into a bundle. And he went silently out of the room, into the night.
The girls continued in silence to dress their hair and adjust their clothing, as if he had never existed.
In the above passage, John Joseph is reduced to a pitiful, emasculated figure. The women themselves are paralyzed by their vulnerabilities and pain. In the face of social/economic progress and the aftermath of the war, both genders have failed to attain a corresponding new shift towards greater understanding and respect. This is what Lawrence highlights in his short story.