Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them
by Siân Evans
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 10 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 24 Aug 2021
In an engaging and anecdotal social history, Siân Evans's Maiden Voyages explores how women’s lives were transformed by the Golden Age of ocean liner travel between Europe and North America.
During the early twentieth century, transatlantic travel was the province of the great ocean liners. It was an extraordinary undertaking made by many women, whose lives were changed forever by their journeys between the Old World and the New. Some traveled for leisure, some for work; others to reinvent themselves or find new opportunities. They were celebrities, migrants and millionaires, refugees, aristocrats and crew members whose stories have mostly remained untold—until now.
Maiden Voyages is a fascinating portrait of the era, the ships themselves, and these women as they crossed the Atlantic. The ocean liner was a microcosm of contemporary society, divided by class: from the luxury of the upper deck, playground for the rich and famous, to the cramped conditions of steerage or third class travel. In first class you’ll meet A-listers like Marlene Dietrich, Wallis Simpson, and Josephine Baker; the second class carried a new generation of professional and independent women, like pioneering interior designer Sibyl Colefax. Down in steerage, you’ll follow the journey of émigré Maria Riffelmacher as she escapes poverty in Europe. Bustling between decks is a crew of female workers, including Violet “The Unsinkable Stewardess” Jessop, who survived the Titanic disaster.
Entertaining and informative, Maiden Voyages captures the golden age of ocean liners through the stories of the women whose transatlantic journeys changed the shape of society on both sides of the globe.
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“[A] riveting slice of social history...Evans does a brilliant job of describing the unexpected textures of life at sea.”–The Mail on Sunday (UK)
“[A] wonderfully readable account [of] the women who crossed the Atlantic…from Lady Astor to the half-starved refugees of Europe, from cabaret artistes and adventuresses to unflappable stewardesses and reliable lifeboatwomen.” –The Times Literary Supplement (UK)
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Average rating from 310 members
I love the idea of this book. Narratives on several women who were traveling. I absolutely love to travel and this book immerses you in both travel and history. It’s extremely informative and interesting at the same time I highly recommend it.
Fascinating read! During the early 20th century, transatlantic travel was the province of the great ocean liners. It was an extraordinary undertaking made by many women, whose lives were transformed by their journeys between the Old World and the New. Maiden Voyages, is very well written and researched story of the women who sailed on them, whatever for leisure or work as they cross the Atlantic. We learn of their hopes, lives and secrets. If you like history details, then this book written by Sian Evans, will really please you. I haven't read it completely and decided to read several chapters at a time! "I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin's Press and NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own."
A slice of social history unlike anything I've ever read before. This book includes women you'll recognize and many more that disappeared into history. It was eye opening and a true pleasure to read.
I must give enormous credit to Sian Evans who has combined social history, military history and delicious anecdotes in this non-fiction delight about women who worked at sea. I loved the style of personalizing the general history with anecdotal stories about specific women who either staffed the ships or traveled on them. I was totally fascinated and I admired the author’s selection of women to highlight. Personally, I am a great fan of the history of the great sailing ships, referred to as the Atlantic ferry. I probably was on one of the final sailings of the United States and I am a frequent traveler on the Queen Mary II and the Queen Elizabeth. So, this book was really engaging for me. As a historian, obsessed with British history I loved the stories about famous characters who the author connected to their travels. The story of a poor Scot, headed on a ship to become a domestic certainly will bring a smile to the face of every reader as we learn she became the mother of Donald Trump. Obviously, ease of immigration impacted his life. This book is endlessly fascinating and I highly recommend it. Thank you Netgalley for this very special book.
20th-century, Atlantic ocean, passenger-ships, historical-places-events, historical research, history-and-culture, nonfiction, women, WW1, WW2, post WW1, post WW2, memoirs***** This book is a history geek's dream! The detailed research through archives and personal records and correspondence of some of the women who worked as stewardesses and more for the Cunard and White Star lines is beyond impressive. As advertised, there are many stories of individual women who needed to go to sea to support those at home, including one woman who served on the Titanic, Lusitania, and another torpedoed ship! There are selected notes about well known women of the era between the wars such as Josephine Baker and Nancy Astor and mentions of film stars Rudolph Valentino, Johnny Weissmuller, and Douglas Fairbanks. Luxury shipping is detailed from the beginning of the 20th century. These same ships and many of the women were also in service during each of the world wars, including the ill fated Kindertransports. It is interesting to note that the Queen Mary was not only the best in luxury, but as of 1927 had a Jewish prayer room and also a rabbi to keep kosher in the kitchen. Another geeky tidbit is that the Aquitania made 580 crossings in 40 years and was the only Trans Atlantic liner to have served in both world wars putting on 3 million miles and transporting 1.2 million passengers. Fantastic book for geeks like me! I requested and received a free temporary ebook copy from St. Martin's Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
Siân Evans gives us a fascinating look at an unexpected piece of history. Luxury liners are made up of many different social and cultural stratas which the author reveals through research into archives and personal correspondence. Very enjoyable and interesting read
The subtitle of Maiden Voyages is Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them. This is an anecdotal social history that is set primarily between the world wars, the golden age of transatlantic travel. It contains much more. Much space is devoted to women taking jobs during the Great War, enabling the Allies to win the war. After the war, they had to give up their jobs to returning servicemen, but they liked the independence earning a wage gained them. Women were employed by the shipping companies to pamper female passengers. Sea jobs provided excellent opportunities to earn good livings, travel the world, and acquire knowledge and sophistication not available on dry land. Many of the women profiled worked on the ships: Violet Jessop, famous for surviving the Titantic; Edith Sowerbutts, a conductress who guarded women and children; Hilda James, an Olympic swimmer employed as a swim coach. Other women were passengers: Hedy Lamarr, who used Normandie’s staircase to make grand entrances and secured a lucrative film contract; Martha Gellhorn, a correspondent who took any ship available to get her stories; Mary Anne MacLeod, who left abject poverty in Scotland, married real estate developer Fred Trump, and became the mother of a president. Not all the women are admirable: Tallulah Bankhead and Josephine Baker sailed to Europe to embark on scandalous stage careers. Interesting biographical sketches of both women and ships. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
A well researched and interesting collection of anecdotes and snippets of history, this book provides a look into an otherwise untold bit of the past. It not only goes into fascinating detail about how transcontinental sea travel affected womens' lives, but also about the industry itself.
Jam packed with fascinating history, Maiden Voyages highlights heroic women in life-changing circumstances during the Golden Age, including circumstances and effects of war. I've long wondered what it must have been like for parents to send their children on ships, knowing they probably wouldn't see them again, in hopes for a better life for them. This book includes information about refugees trying to escape, some successfully; smuggling; women working on the ships as stewardesses, chaperones and engineers; travelers including aristocrats such as the Astors and celebrities who "used" travel to promote themselves and circulate. The author explains what it was like for women to work just as hard as men (harder, as they needed to prove themselves) in a predominantly male world. A hierarchy needed to be upheld. But female employees were a boon as they were needed for propriety of female travelers. Some were sailors or chambermaids, hairdressers or hostesses, others nurses or masseuses. All had to be weatherproof. And the storms could be terrifying. The bibliography at the beginning is very useful and includes people who make appearances throughout such as Victoria Drummond, Martha Gellhorn, Maida Nixson and Edith Sowerbutts. The author describes different ships in detail, distances traveled, storms, rescues, torpedo damage, mail and commodity carriers, etc. She includes quotes from the likes of Charles Dickens who meticulously journaled his trip, But the stories like that of Violet, The Unsinkable Stewardess, and Fannie Jane Morecroft who became the Chief Stewardess of the Lancastria, are what grabbed me in particular. Christiana's story on the Pittsburgh is incredible! So much to absorb! I didn't realize passengers usually slept in all their clothes the entire trip for modesty. Well, except for the wealthy who changed outfits up to seven times a day which Louis Vuitton capitalized on. De luxe suites could cost up to $70,000 in today's currency. Read the crushing story of Hilda who trained for the Olympics and about the nurse, Edith, who assisted with baby deliveries on board. One of my favourite stories is about Victoria Drummond, an engineer, and her challenges. Reading about the medical advances and emergencies on board is also interesting. I had no idea there were pamphlets for war brides arriving in America. And thank goodness for Nancy Bell! There was room for advancement in positions and previous experience on other ships counted. Courageous rescues are described as are the dreadful experiences of Titanic survivors, the sinking of the Lusitania and the horrendous carnage of the Britannic caused by its deadly propeller. As an international traveler, one of my greatest joys is exploring different cities and cultures. I fully understand the pull of the sea as well. But you needn't be a traveler to enjoy this fantastic book. All you need is curiosity. My sincere thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this engrossing book!
This was such an interesting social history about the golden age of ocean liner travel and the special impact it had on women's lives. I saw the Queen Mary when she left New York for the last time and was fortunate to have been a passenger on the Queen Mary 2. It was a wonderful time and I enjoyed all the back stories.
Always been a huge reader when it comes to ships and shipwrecks, so was ready to dive into this one. Very well done and would definitely recommend.
Thanks to NetGalley for this advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Stop for a moment and think of transatlantic crossings in the golden age of ocean liner travel. You might conjure up images of the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the captain and crew. You may think about women on these ships as the wealthy adornments of powerful men, or the shuddering steerage passengers looking for a new life in America. You may even remove the humanness of these women and leave them as vague images. This book ends that. These are the untold stories of the female crew, the refugees, the aristocrats, the famous and not known. They each contributed to the right history of the trans Atlantic passage. My grandmother could be among these woman, as she was one of many who fled Ireland in search of a better life. She came alone in 1914, when women couldn’t vote or make many decisions. This book certainly captures the imagination. Researching all of these women is a feat! Compliments to Ms Evans. For anyone fascinated by the era or by ocean liner history, this is for you.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review. Maiden Voyages explores how women’s lives were transformed by the Golden Age of ocean liner travel between Europe and North America. This was an absolutely fascinating study of women whose lives were changed, indeed history was sometimes changed, by their travels on these magnificent ocean liners. First, hats off to all the working women who became stewardesses, conductresses, chaperones, nurses, chambermaids, support workers and even engineers aboard these ships. The work was hard, the hours long, conditions could be grueling and they spent so much time away from home, but their ultimate payday was that there was enough money to support their families. One of those women was The Unsinkable Stewardess, Violet Jessop. She survived the sinkings of the Titanic and the Brittannic, and was aboard the Olympic when it collided with a British warship. There are entertaining stories of the celebrities who traveled by ocean, and how their lives were changed. For instance, would the Duke of Windsor and the former British King Edward VIII ever have abdicated the throne if it weren’t for Wallis Simpson? Before Wallis, the Duke was enjoying a domestic life with Thelma Furness, also twice-divorced and an American like Wallis. Thelma needed to return to the States for family reasons. Seems her sister, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, was in a bitter custody battle for her daughter, also named Gloria, who became known as the poor little rich girl. Thelma felt bad about leaving the Duke on his own, and asked her best friend Wallis to watch over him. While in the States, Thelma met Aly Khan, who was smitten with her and booked himself on the same ship returning to England. Thelma did not return Khan’s advances, but rumors started, news leaked, and the Duke used it as his excuse to break-up with Thelma. And the rest is history, but what would the royal family look like today if the Duke/King had married someone acceptable to his station in life? Hedy Lamarr’s story was quite interesting. She was of Jewish descent, and married Fritz Mandl, the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. He was also an arms dealer, and had ties to the Nazi party. While she had worked in film, Mandl was controlling and insisted she give up her career. After a fight with Mandl one evening, he went to his hunting lodge to spend the night. Finding her marriage intolerable, Hedy packed some clothes and jewelry, and left. She had little cash, but decided to use it for a ticket on an ocean liner headed to America. Louis B. Mayer was on board, and offered her work at $125 per week. She turned it down, and proceeded to dress up in her evening wear and jewels, making a grand entrance each evening down the staircase. Mayer ended up offering her work, at $500 per week. There are also heart-rending stories of refugee families and their children, all dreaming of a better place. The wartime stories of the ships carrying children from Europe to America was sad and tragic. The book is full of stories, facts, a lot of history, and is highly entertaining as well as informative. https://candysplanet.wordpress.com/
I received Maiden Voyages as part of a NetGalley giveaway. During the first half of the twentieth century, between the first and second world wars in particular, ocean liners were a major source of transportation: used for both business and pleasure, in peace time and in wartime, transporting rich and poor alike. While they comprised a small percentage of the employees on board, women provided important services to passengers of all classes. In turn, the industry allowed women to gain a measure of economic and social independence that would have been denied to them on land. Meanwhile,, women from all walks of life traveled on ocean liners to begin new lives, vacation in luxury, and even scam fellow passengers. Maiden Voyages is the story of women on ocean liners and the opportunities and struggles they presented during a period of rapid change. I really enjoyed this. Told in roughly chronological order, it's filled with the stories of women from all walks of life, the circumstances under which they found themselves on board, and their experiences before, during, and after their time on the ship. While there are a few different women whose long-term affiliation with the industry means that their stories are threaded throughout, we're an otherwise broad range of "characters" and experiences, from the dire (steerage passengers escaping poverty and war, or single women needing to make a livelihood for themselves and their children) to the decadent (the first-class passengers who expected every convenience they enjoyed on land). There's admittedly a bias towards transatlantic crossings (and on a petty note, I could have done without the Trump family anecdote), but on the whole this was an excellent and insightful read.
Sian Evans' nonfictional work documents the lives and careers of women connected to early Twentieth Century Ocean Liners. The documentation is epic. As the great vessels are transformed from pleasure palaces to war ships and back again, the lives and career of these women change. This is a history of how the "big ships" propelled women's independence, creating careers for them, saving families, and raising some of them to celebrity status!
Since we live in a predominately "traveling on a jet plane" world these days, it's been easy for me to forget - to overlook, rather - that transatlantic travel was the major and most popular form of exodus transportation for over half of the 20th century. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr fell in love while on a luxury ocean liner in An Affair to Remember, which is an old film I adore, but I never gave much thought as to why that setting could be or had been culturally significant. Nor did I take adequate time to assess what that said about, how it rolled into, so to speak, the social history of the time period. Similarly, I don't think I was conscious of how profoundly the Golden Age of Ocean Travel affected women in particular. At least, I wasn't prior to reading this. Maiden Voyages helped to broaden my mind in that respect through use of well-researched history and anecdotal exposition. At face value, what I learned from this book is that transatlantic travel from the 1900-1950's altered entire trajectories for women. It changed many of their lives. Evolved gender roles. Set new standards for employment. Going deeper than that, though, the female passengers and crew members who sailed on these vessels were privy to all sorts of opportunities that had never been extended to them before this. Jobs afloat, for one. Some financial independence. Even a semblance of freedom, with the ability to cross seas, to visit countries around the world, whether it was for work or for leisure. Some of these women worked as stewardess, conductresses. Others were nurses or engineers or hairdressers. There were those who survived shipwrecks, like "the Unsinkable Stewardess," Violet Jessop, who lived through three, and more still who lived through torpedo bombings, smuggling incidents, or hurricanes. Picture Brides traveled across oceans to marry men in foreign lands they'd never met, never seen, except in pictures they'd exchanged in letters. Around the time of the Great Wars, there were influxes of migrant and refugee women who were looking for better lives, fleeing persecution, especially from Germany once it fell under Hitler's Nazi regime. Luxury "floating hotel" cruises appealed to the rich and famous, to film stars and aristocrats and other celebrities, many of whom had their favorite ships or scurried onboard to indulge and imbibe during America's Prohibition Era. The author even makes the case that Thelma Furness's sea-borne love affair may have been a catalyst for Prince Edward's eventual abdication from the British royal throne. Amazing! In other words, whether they were passengers or seafarers, all the women who traveled by sea in the Golden Age had their own experiences, motivations, circumstances, or necessities for doing so. This book did a good job of giving voice to that. Telling those untold stories. Informative as well as absorbing! Recommended to those of you who have an interest in women's history. Thank you to NetGalley and Sara Beth over at St. Martin's Press for the ARC.
Maiden Voyages is an interesting account of women , who served as stewardesses and then nurses, on cruise ships, because they enjoyed the “working life afloat, despite its many tribulations, discomforts and dangers.” From the Titanic to the Queen Elizabeth, these voyages are historically described. Kudos to Sian Evans for her extensive research. Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
Maiden Voyages by S. Evans, published by St. Martin's Press, is a history nonfiction novel about the magnificent ocean liners and the women who traveled and worked there. A story of Schifffahrt, shipmates, pioneers and commoners set in the 19 hundereds. A story well researched, full of history, famous people, complex and suspenseful, ein Sittengemälde of the early 19 hundereds. I liked the storyline, liked reading about famous and non-famous passengers, a great read.
A marvelous and unique social history focused on woman passengers and workers who sailed the seas during ocean liners’ golden age. Well-researched and written, with a keen look at how such travel forever altered women’s lives. Highly recommended! 4 of 5 Stars Pub Date 10 Aug 2021 #MaidenVoyages #NetGalley Thanks to the author, St. Martin's Press, and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are mine.
this was an interesting read for fans of early cruise line history and the women who served on them. Violet Jessop who survived 3 different sinking voyages is one of the women profiled. An Upstairs/Downstairs for cruising fans.
A highly entertaining and informative social history of the women who worked and traveled on board ocean liners during the golden age of transatlantic travel. Through a series of biographical sketches covering women of all classes, the author shows how ocean travel, particularly between the two World Wars, afforded women a level of independence that they often could not attain on land. Readers are introduced to, among others, the “unsinkable” Violet Jessup, a stewardess who survived the sinking of the Orinoco, the Titanic, and the Britannic; Victoria Drummond, a ship’s engineer during World War II; Edith Sowerbutts, a conductress for unaccompanied women and children resettling in Canada, Hilda James, a champion swimmer who escaped a physically abusive family situation by becoming a swim instructor for Cunard Lines, and Thelma Furness, Gloria Vanderbilt’s twin sister and the longstanding mistress of the Price of Wales. Her sea-borne love affair with Aly Khan led Edward VIII to find a new mistress, Wallis Simpson for whom he would abdicate the throne. In addition to showing how sea voyages altered the lives of women who worked and traveled on the ocean liners, the author also highlights how the tumultuous events and seismic changes of this era altered sea travel. For example, the sinking of the Titanic led to a new focus on ship safety. Too woo back reluctant travelers, the industry added more lifeboats to existing ships and changed the structural design of new vessels. Modifications to the structural design of the Aquitania, which was already under construction when the Titanic sank in 1912, included a double hull and watertight compartments so that a collision was less likely to sink the ship. The growing number of women taking to the sea also transformed ship design. In 1874, Cunard introduced the first lounge exclusively for women and in 1929, Elsie MacKay, the third daughter of Lord Inchcape—the chairman of the steamship line P & O—was appointed to oversee the interior design of twelve of the company’s liners. The revamped ships included modern conveniences such as passenger lifts, electric radiators, and air ventilation, as well as furnishings inspired by various periods in British history. Similarly, the public spaces and staterooms of the Aquitania were specifically designed to please women—so much so that it was labeled “the Ladies Ship.” Of course, this level of luxury did not extend to those traveling in third class. Cabin accommodations for these passengers were on the lower decks and initially consisted of a windowless cell containing two rows of upper and lower bunks, separated by a toilet seat placed over a bucket. Yet, by the early twentieth century, many liners began introducing improvements here too, prompted by new business possibilities. War also transformed the liners; ships, such as the Aquitania and the Queen Mary, were transformed into troop carriers and/or hospital ships. Many of these repurposed passenger ships did not survive the wars, prompting a postwar boom in ship building that incorporated new technologies developed during the two world wars. The author also tells of the many Jews in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 who sought escape from persecution and death through transatlantic travel. One such traveler was the Viennese-born actor and inventor Hedy Lamarr (Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler). Lamarr became a Hollywood sensation in the 1930s and was the co-inventor of an early version of the frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication, originally intended for torpedo guidance. Through the eyes of Edith Sowerbutts, the reader also experiences the ill-fated voyage of the City of Benares. The ship had been charged with transporting children from London to Canada; it was thought that they would be safer there. However, on its fourth day at sea, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat; most of the children did not survive. Yet despite the many stories of the two world wars and of how Prohibition in the United States impacted foreign liners, there is one noticeable gap in the narrative. We hear little or nothing about the “Spanish flu” pandemic. Yet, without doubt, it was ocean-going vessels that contributed to the spread of this disease. Thus, it is rather surprising that this story goes uncommented on. Perhaps, this silence reflects a silence in the primary documents that the author consulted. The book is based largely on English-language sources, and both the US and British government were keen to suppress stories that they perceived as a threat to the public morale; this included news of the pandemic. In Britain, Sir Arthur Newsholme, chief medical officer of the British Local Government Board went so far as to suggest it was unpatriotic to express concern about the flu, rather than the war, and the 1918 Sedition Act had a similar effect on reporting about the flu in the United States. Yet, this oversight does not detract seriously from the narrative. Of more concern is the author’s focus on the “life-affirming” dimension of sea travel. Although she notes the back-breaking labor that women performed on ships, their substandard wages compared to that of their male colleagues, the threat that sea travel posed to their on-land reputations, and the dangers (from storms to abusive male co-workers), her decision to focus almost exclusively on the success stories, that is, women whose lives largely were transformed for the better by their experiences at sea, results in a somewhat lopsided narrative of how transatlantic travel impacted women’s lives. We hear only briefly of the women who gave up everything for a ticket to the new world only to have their hopes dashed at Ellis Island. We hear nothing of the lives of the single women who disembarked from ships with high hopes only to be pushed into prostitution. Without these stories to counterbalance the success stories, the picture painted is likely too optimistic. Still, this book is well worth reading, as it gives the reader a glimpse into a bygone age of transatlantic travel and the women who benefited from it.
Maiden Voyages told the story of the rise of women during ocean voyages from the Titanic to wartime. The stories were very interesting and very well researched. The intersection of the stories really tied the book together well and I found myself wanting to see what came next.
If you like historical books about ships then you will love this novel. The author touched on the sinking of The Titanic and even flappers from the 1920's. Depending on your interest, you might favor certain chapters over an other. I don't know why but I didnt even consider that trafficking and prostitution would be a problem on a transcontinental ship. Women chaperones helped prevent this. You can learn more through one of the stories of a chaperone. I was disappointed that pictures were not included. Though the authors uses excellent descriptions, I would have liked to see pictures of some of the ships, that I had not heard of, Thank you to St. Martin's publishing company for an ARC review of this novel. My review will also be shown on Goodreads.
Women have worked on ships since Victorian times; Dickens mentions gratitude for the woman who assisted his family. The numbers rose and the types of jobs during the twentieth century. Sian Evans in this work profiles the working class women who found financial independence on the ships as well as the women they cared for. Recognizable names are scattered throughout, women who made a name in entertainment, politics, reporting and royalty. The work is filled with facts, anecdotes, quotes and much research to support their stories. Individual ships are highlighted and their long or short careers through years of war and peace. Many of the working women survived sinkings, along with Prohibition and the Depression, learning new skills such as nursing, secretarial, cruise directing and mariner positions. They adapted as well as the ships to society’s needs. On the whole, the lives of these women prove far more interesting than their “onboard” celebrities for they demonstrate tenacity, courage, creativity and sacrifice.
I received this book as an advanced readers’ copy from Netgalley and thought it provided great insights and interesting stories about the lives of women who traveled on voyages across the sea in different occupations such as stewardesses, laundresses, conductresses, and nursery nurses. These women were pioneers in a sense because women had traditionally not been given the opportunities that the women in this book received. The women in this book established themselves as seafarers and changed views of women in society. What made this book really engaging were the stories and characters that were highlighted throughout the book. Characters such as Violet Jessops and Edith Cowerbutts were extraordinary because they not only worked during wartime but in the case of Ms. Jessops survived boat crashes that sunk the ships they worked on. Edith Cowerbutts acted as a conductress and helped emigrants traveling to the US for new opportunities and new lives along their long journey across the sea. I particularly enjoyed reading about the different ships and how the idea of transatlantic travel changed over time. Passenger ships at first were one of the only ways that people could travel to another country but over time air travel became a more dominant and popular way to travel to other parts of the world. The evolution of sea travel was fascinating to read about and to explore how cruise ships overtook passenger liners. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about strong female characters, interesting history, and changes within the travel industry from the 1920s to the present.
This book provides a fascinating glimpse at the by-gone age of ocean liner journeys, when the only way to travel across the world was by ship. Though I’ve read several history books about ocean voyages and their perils, the focus on women as staff and passengers was a refreshing perspective. Since opportunities for female workers were scarce in those days, a stewardess position aboard an ocean-going ship was highly sought after. Evans outlines the stories of these women in a compelling, easy to read style. I admired them not only for their bravery – it took a lot of guts to sail across the world with the threat of storms, shipwrecks, and looming icebergs, not to mention the cramped and closed quarters – but also for the pioneering, adventurous spirit many of them seemed to possess. In short, this a very informative, well researched work of history.
Maiden Voyages by Sian Evans 368 Pages Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Release Date: August 10, 2021 Nonfiction (Adult), History, Travel This book covers the women that worked in the ocean liner industry beginning in the early twentieth century. Chapter 1: Floating Palaces and the ‘Unsinkable’ Violet Jessop Chapter 2: From the Ritz to the Armistice Chapter 3: Sail Away: Post-war Migration and the Escape from Poverty Chapter 4: The Roaring Twenties Chapter 5: Edith Sowerbutts and Her Contemporaries Chapter 6: For Leisure and Pleasure Chapter 7: Depression and Determination Chapter 8: The Slide to War Chapter 9: Women Under Fire Chapter 10: Romance, Repatriation and Recovery Conclusion: Sailing into the Sunset I was unaware that women were required on ocean liners to act as companions and chaperons to unaccompanied women and minors. These are the women included in the book. Josephine Baker Tallulah bankhead Victoria Drummond Thelma Furness Martha Gellhorn Hilda James Violet Jessop Nin Kilburn Hedy Lamarr Mary Anne MacLeod Maida Nixson Marie Riffelmacher Edith Sowerbutts The research on the women and the working conditions was impeccable. The author presents the information in very easy to read format. I learned so much about the women and the industry. If you enjoy reading about women’s history or travel stories, I believe you will enjoy this book as well.
This was a fun and intriguing book, as it focused on women working at sea, usually on a ocean liner, both before and after the Great War, during the heyday of those big ships. After WWI, many women had lost husbands, fathers, fiances, etc., and needed to find work to survive on their own, and some decided to try their luck at sea. They worked long, hard hours, but found the independence they wanted, as well as the opportunity to see some of the world. So many men from England and the Commonwealth died during the war that there simply were too few men of that generation for all the women left behind, and some were able to meet and marry men they worked with on board ship. A few women were featured , which I liked, as it really personalized the whole experience. Overall, a great book about a vanished age.
“Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them,” is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the newly independent women who traveled across the Atlantic on the great ocean liners between the time of the Two World Wars and shortly after the Second World War. The book features biographical sketches of well-known women, such as Tallulah Bankhead, Josephine Baker, and Hedy Lamarr, as well as lesser known women, such as stewardesses, mechanics, a swim instructor and a “conductress,” who cared for unaccompanied women and children on the North Atlantic route. This interwar period has always held a fascination for me, as its vibrant culture and frenetic party scenes provided such a sharp contrast to the austerity and pathos of the two world wars. I am also particularly interested in the ocean liners of that period, so I was overjoyed to be provided an ARC copy of the book for my review. The book was very entertaining and enlightening, especially with its emphasis on women’s new-found independence following the greater roles they were provided during World War I. I particularly enjoyed the chapters which focused on the Queen Mary, describing the history of its construction, the women who designed certain of the ship’s interiors, as well as the celebrities who voyaged on her. In addition, the author does an excellent job of depicting the Queen Mary’s service during the war as a troop transport ship, and the little known role it played in saving German Jews escaping Nazi Germany. I had one minor quibble with the book, and that was an error I found in Chapter 6, in which the author incorrectly referred to the “Majestic” as the sister ship to the ill-fated Titanic and Britannic. The actual surviving sister ship was the “Olympic.” (In fact, these three ships were categorized as the Olympic Class ships). This error was an apparent oversight, as in a later chapter, the author correctly identified the Olympic as the sister ship. Hopefully this type of error will be corrected before the book is published. Notwithstanding the one issue identified above, I found the book entertaining and enlightening and would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the role that transatlantic ocean liners played in offering women social and financial independence.
Kindle Copy for Review from NetGalley and St. Martin Press. I received a free, advance copy of this book and this is my unbiased and voluntary review. It is about a quick historical journey of maiden voyages and the women who worked and travelled on them. A fascinate read that will sweep you into a world of ocean liners. The famous women who used them as a mode to travel while the cross the oceans. In a world before the use of planes, we see both worlds as they collide.
This is a non-fiction book which is something I don’t usually read but when St Martin’s Press asked if I would read it I did so. It is an interesting story of the numerous women that worked on ocean liners throughout the glory days of sea travel. As it has been with other occupations women were not utilized or paid as they should have been. Reading the harrowing tails that some of these women endured made me wonder why they would want to return to sea but the lure of the sea kept them going back. The details on the ship building was not all that informative as it doesn’t interest me but the rest of it was interesting and informative not to mention educational. I believe this book would be of great interest to those that like ocean liners, WWI and WWII, the women’s movement and the rich and famous of olde.
Pros :: Really enjoyed this book! So interesting how the author intermingled less famous people (Violet Jessops, The Unsinkable Stewardess,” or Edith Sowerbutts) and the well-known like Hedy Lamar who “staked everything she possessed on a single transatlantic ticket in order to secure a film contract,” or Hilda James, the world champion swimmer who reflects how hard life can be and yet the ships were able to provide her opportunities to transcend her difficult beginnings to Martha Gellhorn, the fabulous WWII correspondent, and Tallulah Bankhead to pivot to background info on the Queen Mary (Cunard ship.) Nice summaries at the end of each chapter. Well written; reads smoothly and enough historical information accompanied by statistical data to make this well balanced without becoming dry. Hope this author will write a similar book about ships going across the Pacific. Also intrigued about the authors family connections to the shipping industry as well — well placed and interesting. “For many, the Queen Mary had come to embody the triumph of dogged determination and willpower over the enervating effect of the Great Depression.” Page 219 Cons :: Nothing Cover art :: 5 out of 5 Gorgeous!
“Maiden Voyages” is a very well-written, very enjoyable 20th-Century history about ocean liners and the women who sailed on them as passengers or crew. It covers the period from the sinking of the Titanic to the 1950s and encompasses WWI (“The Great War”), the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Great Depression,” WWII, and the post-war years. Author Siân Evans takes us aboard some of the most famous vessels of those times: Titanic, Lusitania, Olympic, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Normandie, Ile de France, Bremen; and gives us glimpses into the lives of celebrities such as Tallulah Bankhead (star of Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat”), Hedy Lamar (Hollywood A-lister and inventor of technology now used in cell phones), Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”), reporter Martha Gellhorn, and Wallace Simpson (for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the English Throne). But “Maiden Voyages” is not a “gossipy tell-all.” In addition to recounting incidents involving some of the rich and famous, it covers a variety of less famous women involved in business, commerce, and design as well as working women who served aboard-ship as stewardesses, “conductors,” chaperones, and even engineers. It is a serious examination of how these women and the ships they sailed affected history; and how the industry contributed to the expansion of women’s independence, their participation in endeavors that had once been for men only, and the furtherance of their careers. I was most impressed by the range of topics Ms. Evans managed to cover, including ship-building and design; disasters at sea; ship-board life and the differences between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class accommodations; crew accommodations; immigration/emigration; post-WWI economies, crossings as generators/facilitators of business opportunities and contacts, Edward VIII’s abdication (and how it might not have occurred but for one particular crossing), the rise of Nazi Germany and the role ships played carrying Jewish refugees to new lands; conversion of liners into troop transports; convoying and German submarine “wolf packs” during WWII, Prime Minister Churchill traveling under an assumed name; post-war reunification of families; and much more. Kudos to Ms. Evans for what, IMO, is a 5-star performance. Indeed, I liked “Maiden Voyages” so much that I may go back and read it again. My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for inviting me to read an advance copy of this work. The above review is my own, independent opinion.
This was a really interesting book for any history buffs out there! It was a fascinating look at the era of ocean liner travel and how women fit into that bygone time. The only woman covered in this book that I was very familiar with is Violet Jessie, so I enjoyed learning about so many other women and their many reasons for their choices and their often fascinating lives. One of the other things I enjoyed most about this book was watching as changes came as we move from th me Edwardian era through WWII. It was like reading a little slice of history through women’s eyes. I had previously read the author’s book ‘Life Below Stairs’ and if you enjoyed reading this book, I strongly encourage you to give that book a read as well! I’m looking forward to picking up many of Sian Evans’s other books which sound interesting too.
Maiden Voyages takes a look at the women who worked and sailed on ocean liners during the Golden Age. It is well researched and very interesting. The women, who worked on these liners, paved the way for the women who work on cruise ships now Only 2% of employees on cruise ships are women. The women who worked during the Golden Age faced ridicule from crew members. Many women left home to have a life on the sea to support their families. When you read this book, you will meet some interesting women. The unsinkable lady, the first woman engineer, the stewardess who worked on the ships to support her ailing mother, nurses and many others. These women not only worked on the liners during peace time, but many worked on the ships during WWI and WWII in different positions. If you like history, I recommend this book. I enjoyed it, but gave it 4 ⭐'s because in some places it I felt it got bogged down. Thanks to Netgalley, the publisher and author for the Kindle Version of this book. Happy Reading 😊
WoW! I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did! Seriously started this book at 2:01am and finished around 5am I couldn't sleep...... thank you so much NetGalley St. Martin's Press and author for this interesting historical nonfiction ebook! Maiden Voyages is a wonderful piece of history. We follow the lives of thirteen women as they travel onboard. This is such a unique and fascinating book and I really enjoyed the reading and actually learning more!n I loved how well detailed and researched this book was. Evans goes into great detail here and its so fascinating I couldn't stop reading! Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to read and review this amazing book!
368 pages 4 stars Ms. Evans give a colorful and descriptive history of women as crew members on ships. She describes each of their duties and the onerous hours they had to work for very little money. She outlines the evolution of liners from being primarily cargo to carrying passengers and as the number of women passengers increased, the number of women crew necessarily increased as well. Then she tells the reader about certain individual women who traveled the liners. These women were all different from one another, somewhat colorful and handled issues in their lives uniquely. This is a great book. It is interesting and informative. I truly enjoyed learning about the women discussed in the book. I want to thank St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for forwarding to me a copy of this bok for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Evan delivers an examination of the role women had on big ocean liners from 1900-1950s. She interspersed the facts with individuals memories, diaries, recollections to bolster the story. Much of this I have already read about in other books, but she does capture a time that will never be again. I do have one critique when she talks about the Lusitania. The author supports the supposition the Lusitania was not carrying any arms, when in fact it was. Aside from that Maiden Voyages is a nice introduction for the novice reader about women and big ships during their heyday.
An all-encompassing telling of the history of women on ships. Their fortitude, determination, and humour from the dire days of The Titanic to their settlement in far-away countries. This book kept you reading, weaving between the everyday celebrity of the time and the women who had to work to put food on their table. The conditions, pay, devastation of two wars, and the social interactions between passengers and the onboard workers are well-told and bring all these people to life. Highly recommend for anyone interested in history that is deeply researched and made real. The book is long but well-worth it as the focus of the chapters evolves as in any good story. A definite 'thinking book' filled with realizations of what it was to be a working woman during those times, Thank you to #NetGalley and #St.Martin'sPress for the opportunity to review this early copy in exchange for my opinion.
I received an E-ARC of this book through Netgalley. The description mentioning Downton Abbey drew me in, but what I found it to have in common with Downton Abbey is the class system so prevalent in travel from the very rich to the steerage/almost cargo-like passengers piled into the bottom of the ships. This book was at it's most interesting to me when it is talking about real-life examples of women who worked or traveled by sea. It covered a lot of history up until the 1960s when the airlines really took over the travel needs of most customers who had to rely on sea voyages prior to airplane travel. It was interesting to read about women getting better jobs or adventures when they worked on ships instead of the limited jobs available to women between WWI and WWII.
Which is most important to you when you travel – the journey or the destination? Sian Evans sheds light on the pioneering women who sailed during the Golden Age of travel, either as passengers or as seafarers, and points out that the experience transformed their lives for the better. It’s easy to see that at this time in history, the journey was the luxury and was more important than the destination. How quickly this changed! Once technology and engineering progressed, long-haul flights were possible and passengers were able to traverse the 3000 miles of ocean in much less time in the air than by sea. What did change was the experience. Passengers traded the luxury of ocean liners and fine dining for convenience and affordability. No longer is the journey enjoyable. Now it’s the destination. The seats on planes are cramped, you’re invariably stuck beside someone you’d never choose to spend time with, the food is questionable, the entertainment is spotty at best and you’re forced to cooperate as someone roots through your luggage and pats you down. How far we’ve come in 50 years! I’m biased towards sea travel. I’m an avid cruiser with over 400 days at sea. In my opinion, the worst day at sea I’ve ever had is still better than the best day I’ve experienced on a plane – apples to apples – a regular cabin on a ship and a regular seat on a plane. Cruising is the best of both worlds; you get to enjoy the journey and the destination. The delight and appeal of this book is not just the author’s writing skills, but the main era in which it is written. Evans book is a gem which brings to light women of all ages, backgrounds and social classes who chose to travel by sea or work at sea. She touches on the social, technical and historical aspects of ocean liners and sprinkles the information with a generous helping of anecdotes and interesting stories. Interesting fact: Cunard Chief Officer Stephen Gronow of the Aquitania was the author’s great-great uncle. The Golden Age of travel is gone, but the spirit of travel lives on. I think we can all agree that after the year we’ve all experienced, we’re more than ready to dust off our suitcases and hop on a plane or a boat. This non-fiction book is to be published on August 10, 2021. I was gifted this advance copy by Sian Evans, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them by Sian Evans is an excellent book that begins with the Titanic and moves on to the Lusitania, covering the time period between the two World Wars, and ending shortly after World War II. It is a fascinating look at the women who were seeking an adventure, a better job, or just a way to get away from home and found it by taking jobs aboard the ocean liners on the Atlantic Ocean. Evans includes stories of the well known, like actresses Hedy Lamarr and Tallulah Bankhead who traveled as guests, as well as stories of the stewardesses and the mechanics and others who worked aboard the ships. I especially enjoyed the incredible story of Violet Jessop, a stewardess, who survived the sinking of three ships including the Titanic. In addition to the stories about the people onboard these ships, the book delves into the history of a time when traveling by ship was the only way to travel the world. Evans provides a great deal of history including the construction of the Queen Mary, the role that it played in helping German Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis in