This book examines cultural representations of women's experience of the railway in the nineteenth century. Examining the representation of women in the spaces of the railway in literature and culture of the 19th and early 20th century, this book explores the extraordinary and unprecedented opportunities that the train offered women. An emblem of the conquest of national and imperial space and of the staggering advances of science and technology, the train gave women a taste of its omnipotence, eventually becoming a space of emancipation, transgression, but also fear for women. The book brings together the sensation, mystery, realist, and early modernist railway narratives by female and male authors, analyzing women's trajectories within and beyond the city but also the nation, as urban passengers, travellers, tourists, and colonists.
In texts by authors such as Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Margaret Oliphant, Rhoda Broughton, Mary Ward, Flora Annie Steel, and Mona Caird but also Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James, the ambiguous space of the railway highlights the artificiality of the private/public divide, while giving rise to woman's impulse to traverse boundaries, not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. In the novels, short stories in periodicals, news items and commentaries, essays, illustrations, and paintings examined, trains become contact zones of multiple encounters, but also battlefields of gender, class, and imperial ideology. The first full length examination of texts by and about women which explore the railway as a gendered space within a British, European, and Imperial context. This book explores a variety of cultural discourses which deal with women and the railway: fiction, poetry, news stories and commentaries, essays, paintings, and illustrations. It concentrates on many understudied writers of the 19th century. It includes 9 images to help illustrate the study.