Women, travel and identity

Journeys by rail and sea, 1870-1940

By Emma Robinson-Tomsett

Women, travel and identity


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8715-8
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: June 2013
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Social History, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, History, Social & cultural history, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
  • Series: Gender in History


The years between 1870 and 1940 are often considered a 'golden age' of travel: as larger and evermore sumptuous ships and trains were built, including the Orient Express, Blue Train, Lusitania and Normandie, journeying abroad became, and remains today, synonymous with chic, splendour and luxury.

Utilising women's diaries and letters, art, advertising, fiction and etiquette guides, this book considers the journey's impact upon understandings of female identity, definitions of femininity, modernity, glamour, class, travel, tourism, leisure and sexual opportunity and threat during this period. It explores women's relationship with train and ship technology; cultural understandings of the journey; public expectations of women journeyers; how women journeyed in practice: their use of journey space, sociability with both Western and 'Other' non-Western journeyers, experience of love, sex and danger during the journey; and how women fashioned a journeyer identity which fused their existing domestic identities with new journey identities such as the journey chronicler. The journey is revealed to be an experience of sociability as much as mobility, dominated by ideas of respectability and reputation, class, power, vision and observation and home as well as the foreign and new.


Women, Travel and Identity: Journeys by Rail and Sea, 1870-1940 offers a refreshing contribution to studies of women's travel: as Robinson-Tomsett's identifies, the experience of the 'paying woman journeyer' (3) has remained largely hidden from view. It is these everyday women, travelling for leisure and pleasure, who are brought to light in this study which seeks to explore how women constructed their identities as travellers in a period in which their statuses and roles, in public and private, were undergoing radical reformulations.


Part I: The culture of female journeying
1. The big luggage went a fortnight ago: making the journey abroad
2. Fashion plate heroines: imagining the female journeyer
3. No nice girl swears: advice, etiquette and expectation
Part II: Journey practices
4. Ordering the berth: the spaces of journeying
5. Busy practising games: scrutiny and sociability
6. Full of wickedness: romantic opportunity and sexual hazard?
Part III: Journey identity
7. Where her story begins: fashioning a journeyer identity
Appendix: Women Journeyers


Emma Robinson-Tomsett is a freelance academic and History researcher and writer who completed her doctorate at Royal Holloway, University of London

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