Women, travel and identity

Journeys by rail and sea, 1870–1940

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.

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