The years between 1870 and 1940 were years of mass mobility, migration and journeying. Over these decades, the journey abroad emerged as the most universal and popular female travel experience of the period. By examining women's reactions to their journeys and the technology that took them abroad, another dimension of women's experiences of both mobility and migration is revealed, in which women's confidence and personal engagement come to the fore. In September 1830, the first passenger railway between Liverpool and Manchester opened. The emergence of steam technology was also crucial in transforming maritime journeys abroad. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 was a pivotal factor in the reduction of the length of sea journeys. Many scheduled passenger services to India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia and New Zealand opted to use it.
Communal leisure activities were organized to relieve monotony, to provide an outlet for journeyers' energy and to facilitate sociability. The dramatic increase in the variety and sophistication of these activities, particularly on maritime journeys, was one of the greatest changes in the journey between 1870 and 1940. The journey's conditions and environment redefined the gaze as primarily the perception of people instead of objects: as one study usefully highlights, the nineteenth-century British train compartment 'was the site of intense if oblique mutual scrutiny. It produced a situation of anonymous promiscuity increasingly typical of modern life in which visual impressions were the prime means of reading others.' Warnings in journey etiquette literature about the attention paid to women's behaviour by other journeyers indicate that those upon whom women gazed so fiercely subjected them to similar scrutiny.
Journeying abroad was not always presented as an innate, natural female activity between 1870 and 1940. Several key themes dominated the female journey abroad in this period. Journeys by both ship and train were an experience of sociability as much as they were of mobility. Etiquette writers emphasized the importance of women's role as social arbiters. Wealthy women could enter journey spaces that were supposedly masculine spaces and assert their authority over male staff. The journey abroad was gendered, but gender combined with women's socio-economic background, wealth and position in the passenger-class/journeyer hierarchy determined the nature of their experience. The journey(er) gaze was also gendered in one particular aspect. In her essay on the spectator and the cinema, Laura Mulvey utilized Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic definition of gazing as socophilic.
In 1928, 'Joanna', a writer for the White Star passenger magazine, labelled women who took their cruise journeys 'fashion plate heroines'. Cunard Magazine, the passenger magazine of the Cunard company, published photographs of the eminent journeyers. These images illustrate a key way in which women journeyers were represented and the values with which transport companies wanted their journeys to be associated: elegance, fashionability and modernity. French artist Jacques-Joseph, or James, Tissot produced many of the earliest images of women journeyers. Tissot's depiction of the emerging middle classes outraged his critics: they believed that he glamorized the social-climbing nouveaux riches and their attempts to mimic their social superiors. From the turn of the twentieth century images of women journeyers began to appear far more frequently in transport company advertising. The woman in the poster promoting Cunard's USA and Canada service is particularly vigorously healthy, with glowing skin and windswept auburn hair.
By the 1880s travel within foreign countries had become broadly connected in the popular imagination with love affairs: many novels and short stories featuring romance were set overseas. As the journey was an act of travel, it, too, was perceived as a site of romance. The belief that journey spaces offered liberation from convention led to some fictional romances occurring across socio-economic divisions. The journey was also depicted as a space for the negative consequences of love. The understanding of journey spaces as enclosed, contained and private fuelled the belief that, in addition to love, sexual desire could be explored within them, which was again reinforced by some fiction. In absolute contrast to the belief that it was a space for either affairs of the heart or eroticism to flourish, the journey abroad was often represented as an arena in which women were threatened with physical and sexual danger.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. This book focuses upon rail and marine journeys as the most significant and representative female journey experience prior to 1940. By framing the journey abroad as a leisure opportunity, it adds a new dimension to the history of women's leisure. It moves beyond previous studies' focus on women's late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century local and home-based activities, such as visits to music and dance halls, the cinema and women's clubs, and music making, knitting and gossiping with friends at home. By focusing upon women's journeys, the book further challenges the traditional assumption, which some date back to the age of Gilgamesh, that journeying is a masculine endeavour. Women enthusiastically and actively constructed, defined and consumed their journeys and asserted their identities as journeyers throughout this period.
Most journey advice and etiquette was proffered for journeys undertaken for pleasure. Writers accordingly deemed it necessary to provide more detailed guidance for female maritime journeyers. However, there were a number of common themes within the etiquette of rail and ship journeys abroad, including politeness, modesty and restraint. Journey etiquette thus offered faint glimpses of space for self-expression even as it sought to shape women journeyers. Clothing and personal appearance were considered key ways in which women journeyers expressed their femininity, and etiquette writers accordingly put a particular emphasis on controlling them. Viola Tree provided a detailed list of the clothes needed both for the journey and for excursions: Dark blue coat and skirt. A sober, plain, sensible, restrained style that expressed taste, elegance and modesty was encouraged when dressing, revealing that the femininity idealized in journey etiquette was that which valued simplicity and restraint rather than showiness.
Train and ship space was divided according to passenger class. In the earliest decades of the railways entire trains were designated as one class only, a practice echoed across Europe. The division of train and ship space created a hierarchy of spatial quality. Following their division into classes, journey spaces were further divided by functionality although the variety of spatial functionality was higher on ships than on trains owing to the greater amount of space available on the former. These spaces were given meaning partly through the function and name assigned to them by ship and rail companies. Steerage accommodation was particularly divided according to gender. On nineteenth-century emigrant vessels journeying to Australia, single women were berthed in their own compartment. Unaccompanied married women were also berthed with these women. Some women took practical action to make their living spaces homely.
Women journeyers undoubtedly had a degree of agency in their relationship with journey discourse: while it did shape some elements of their subjectivity, women also chose which elements of journey discourse they used to express it. When considering the nature of identity and subjectivity, scholarly work on the (de)construction of the self was also important. A discourse of geography further enabled women journeyers to assert their expertise as travellers. This discourse listed the route of the journey in precise detail. This discourse enabled women to acknowledge through the recording of places passed that they had undeniably left the familiar geographies of home, but more importantly it demonstrated women journeyers' authenticity and control over their journeys. More significantly, the deployment of the discourses of technology, navigation and danger allowed women journeyers to assert and express their identities as women of modernity, which was the final key part of women journeyers' self-representations.
Between 1870 and 1940, millions of Britons embarked on journeys abroad by train and ship, leaving their homes to participate in one of the great ages of journeying. Millions of women unhesitatingly seized their opportunity to journey abroad; yet these journeys have remained largely invisible. This book aims to redress this imbalance through a close examination of forty women's journeys abroad. Thirty of these were undertaken for leisure and pleasure to and around Europe, the Middle East and Asia. One was undertaken to improve the woman's health, but was also a journey of leisure. Two were emigration voyages by women who sought new lives in New Zealand. One was a family-and-duty journey on a troopship by a woman accompanying her husband to an army posting in India. Five women journeyed as a requirement of their work as nurses, teachers and domestic servants. Finally, one journey was undertaken both out of religious conviction and to support a family member: one woman accompanied her husband to a missionary station in Zululand, South Africa. The sexual threat women journeyers faced was also not as severe as some contemporaries believed. Vision and observation were further keynotes in the journey abroad. The argument that women's travel involved a rejection of the domestic has thus greatly distorted the nature of much female mobility in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some Victorian images disappeared, replaced by a strength and confidence that reflected women's changed status and their new sense of what they could achieve.