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Working on the Railroad — in the Victorian Age


Traveling by train

Who doesn't yearn to make at least once a long train trip, to be able to travel in comfort, have a good meal in a dining car, with excellent service provided by the waiters — while the engineer and the stoker see to it that the train will arrive in safety and on time.  Ah, to be able to stretch out one's legs in comfort and to look at the changing landscape that rolls past the window, showing now and then people waving at the people in the train going by.  It makes all of us feel good just to think of it.

The nostalgia for trains draws us so much, that in an era when faster and seemingly more efficient methods of travel apparently make trains and railroads more and more obsolete the legendary Orient Express — which has been the location of many mystery novels and movies — made a profitable come-back.  Now as then, women put on their finest, relax in the comfort of their seats and let themselves be treated like ladies by their male travel companions.  A trip like that is truly a joy never to be forgotten.  Not the least of which is that any woman who finds it too hard to carry or lift her baggage will always have a porter, if not any of the male passengers if she is travelling alone, do the lifting for her.

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express uses a set of restored Wagons-Lit cars in Continental Europe (as shown in this publicity picture).

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express is a successful commercial
venture reproducing the era of the international luxury train. 
It uses a set of restored Wagons-Lit cars in Continental Europe
(as shown in this publicity picture), and Pullman cars for the
English sector.  The Pullman cars are also used for short
steam-hauled excursions from London.

—The Age of Steam, by John Westwood
(2000, Prospero Books), p. 222 

The passengers on the Orient Express and any other of the train systems of the world had and still have every reason to be able to enjoy their trips in relative safety.  The trains and the railroads they use were exclusively built by reliable men, most often family men, and are almost without exception being run by men even now. 

Whether measured by passenger/mile or on the basis of trips per passenger, trains were and still are one of the safest methods to travel.  Far safer than travelling by bus or by car, and most definitely safer than travelling by air.   Only one method of mass-travel is safer, that is travelling by ship, but the limitations of that are obvious.

Moreover, nothing made so many essential contributions to the development of civilization and the advancement of industry and commerce on as large a scale throughout the whole world as did the invention of the steam engine and eventually making it mobile in the form of locomotives. 

It was all done by men working in unison, but how?  How could men who were busy devising ever new schemes for the oppression of women ever find the time to built any railroads, let alone make the trains run on time and in safety?

Much of the push for "equal rights for women" comes from concerns, based on reports about the Victorian Age, that in some western countries women couldn't vote, were not allowed to hold property or were not permitted to even issue wills. To some considerable extent, that view is a fallacy.[1]  Women did have extensive property rights.   Not only that, but men were held to be criminally responsible for any misdeeds that their wives committed. [2]

Those reports ignore that in England for instance, only one out of seven men was allowed to vote, in voting systems that were based on equity held by men.  Men with property could vote, but only in relation to the amount of property they held, so that the more equity they owned, the more their vote counted.[3]

As to wills, most men had nothing to will to anyone.  The law recognized that the children of families whose providers had died in the often appalling working conditions of the time needed protection.  Men have always been forced to pursue livelihoods that put them at far greater risks to their lives, so that women outlived them.  Women were therefore given dowager rights, so that any or most of the property of the family was passed on to them, in trust for the children, with the understanding that they and their economic circumstances would thereby be secure or at least conducive to give them an extent of security that would ensure that the survivors in a family would not be forced to live in the streets and thereby contribute to the large number of homeless people that existed at the time (who were then as now comprised of about 90% men). 

One could say that the concept that is now a familiar one in the divorce courts had its origin in those times: "Regardless of the circumstances of her continuing life, the woman must be able to continue it at the level of comfort she has become accustomed to."

Continued....

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For other views of the circumstances that affected the position of the sexes and the esteem in which they were held, see:

The Wife at His Side, by Karin Jäckel, The Beginnings of the Women's Movement, and

The Great Train Robbery (it happened in 1855), by Michael Crichton

The Industrial Revolution and the Plight of Men

THE WAR ON PROPERTY RIGHTS & WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU, by Dr. Michael S. Coffman Ph. D.;  August 23, 2006, NewsWithViews.com

___________
Updates:
2000 01 12
2001 02 10 (format changes)
2001 07 14 (added introduction)
2001 07 17 (broke up page into seven pages)
2001 07 22 (added link to The Industrial Revolution and the Plight of Men)
2002 10 13 (minor changes)
2006 11 05 (reformated)