ARC Book Review | Maiden Voyages: Women and the Golden Age of Transatlantic Travel

Posted August 25, 2021 by TheNonbinaryLibrarian in book reviews / 0 Comments

Title: Maiden Voyages: Women and the Golden Age of Transatlantic Travel

Author: Sian Evans

Publisher: Two Roads

Published: 10 August 2021

Pages: 368

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Yes, I am behind on posting this! I’m behind on posting reviews in general. It’s been a rough almost two years, and I, as most everyone, am ready for this pandemic to be done (Get Vaccinated and Wear a Mask)!

Sian Evans explores not only a specific time in history, but also explores the way women used transatlantic travel. Evans tells us the stories from passengers to stewardesses through diaries, letters, and published accounts. She begins in the early twentieth century and goes through to the end of WWII, as we see how these women’s lives are changed as they travel from the Old World to the New.

Maiden Voyages is a wonderful exploration into the lives of these women as they crossed the Atlantic. From the luxary of the upper deck to the cramped conditions of steerage of third class travel, readers are given a first-hand account of how women lived, worked, and socialized on these luxury liners. In first class we meet A-listers like Marlene Dietrich, Wallis Simpson, and Josephine Baker, while second class housed a new generation of professional and independent women, like interior designer Sibyl Colefax. Down in third class, we follow the journey of emigre Maria Riffelmacher as she escapes poverty in Europe. Of course, we cannot forget the women hustling between decks, including Violet “The Unsinkable Stewardess” Jessop, who survived the Titanic disaster.

A wonderful and engaging look into a specific time period where women weren’t bound to just the Old World for a life, nor were they bound to the land alone.

I found this book absolutely lovely. I knew about some of these people, Wallis Simpson, Josephine Baker, and Mary Anne MacLeod (Donald Trump’s mom), but only from how and why they are famous not their personal transatlantic journeys. This made it interesting and eye-opening to see how these women’s lives were affected because of traveling across the Atlantic.

For Mary MacLeod’s case, she was escaping abject poverty in Ireland and a ship across to the New World was a way out. Then, unfortunately, we had to deal with her son many, many years later. Who knows what would’ve happened if Wallis decided to stay in America instead of going abroad? Or if her friend had never introduced Wallis to Edward? The even more fascinating aspect of transatlantic travel was how many doors opened for women in terms of work on ships. It’s definitely a book for someone who is interested in social history or women’s history.

Happy Reading Darlings!

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