Women Transport Workers and Passengers, Past and Present
Greenwich Maritime Institute, University of Greenwich, London, June 2007
In many ways this conference continued a theme that was initiated at a panel at T2M’s inaugural meeting in Eindhoven in 2003. Indeed, all except one of that panel spoke at Greenwich, along with a nice mix of presenters from Australasia, Europe and North America including not only historians but also sociologists and geographers.
In his keynote address, John Urry posited the notion of “network capital” within a wider debate over mobility and immobility. “Network capital”, he suggested, was a more accurate term than Bourdieu’s wellknown concept of “social capital” as it stressed, more than anything, the issue of access. The ability to get in – be it into a country or a well-connected dinner party – and the ability to get out – in short, the capacity to leave when you choose – are now (or should be) important policy considerations. If gender is to be conceptualized as something that is “done” – a process – inclusion and exclusion have always been part of that process.
The two-day meeting looked at women workers and travellers at sea, on rail, on foot, urban transport and in the air. It also addressed those who didn’t go anywhere, either in the form of shipyard workers or women who stayed behind in port communities while their husbands went to sea. Helen Doe’s paper resonates with T2M EC member Heike Wolter’s work on “travel in the mind” among East Germans after World War Two.
Two papers explicitly introduced ethnicity into the matrix: Helen Milne examined the experience of West Indian and Irish migrants as they negotiated 1950s and 1960s London, while Sowande Mustakeem explored black women slaves during the Middle Passage.
There were also two slightly different papers from those normally encountered at academic conferences. Sarah Finke of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) talked of how the notion of “transportation” jobs has expanded to encompass supply chain management, in which many women are employed. Gayle Letherby and Gillian Reynolds gave an interesting account of their experience as “public sociologists” following the publication of their recent book Train Tracks. “We have made ourselves vulnerable as women and as academics,” they claimed. “We have at times been amused and at others insulted by the often emotive responses to both our analysis and our presentation.”
All in all, the Greenwich conference highlighted the fact that gender is alive as a framework of analysis in mobility circles.
List of papers:
Valerie Burton: Tender and crank[y]: some observations about the anthropomorphisation of Bri- tish merchant vessels toward encouraging a cross-cultural discussion of women’s work in a “Man’s World”.
Colin Divall: “You see, my husband’s so partial to a mantel-shelf”: the gendered construction of “safety” on Britain’s railways.
Helen Doe: Travelling by staying at home: cultural inuences in nineteenth-century maritime communities.
Di Drummond: “Innocent railroad slaughter”: women, railway accidents and notions of
the state and liberty in Victorian Britain and the USA.
Janis Jansz: Challenges and opportunities for the occupational safety and health for women who work in the Australian transport industry.
Astrid Kirchhof: Dreams on rails: the debate about migrating women and the founding
of the Protestant Traveller’s Aid Society around 1900 in Germany. The example of Berlin.
Bente Knoll: Gendered travel and mobility surveys.
Ulrich Leifeld: Exotic smart and pretty girls or cheap workforce from the Far East? The changing role and identity of Asian female air crew members working for a Western airline.
Gayle Letherby and Gillian Reynolds: “A question for the (train) ladies”: reections of the public presentation of self in and beyond academia.
Sari Maenpaa: The ban on women from the ocean-going ships and development of passenger shipping in Finland from the early twentieth century onwards.
Helen Milne: Irish and West Indian newcomers: gender, ethnicity and urban space in 1950s and 1960s London.
Sowande Mustakeem: “The female… seeming to pine and waste, was sent to shore…”: black females and the emotional and psychological traumas of the Atlantic slave trade.
Lisa Norling: Gender, class and shipboard authority on the eighteenth-century Atlantic crossing: the passengers’ perspective.
Emma Robinson: Not yet a home: women passengers’ emotional constructions of transport spaces and interaction with female staff, c1870-c1940.
Lauren Rosewarne: The gendered journey: sex and captivity on public transport.
Joan Ryan: How women became part of the workforce of the Royal Naval Dockyards.
Barbara Schmucki: Gendered spaces- gendered places: women, urbantransport and walking in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Francesca Setzu: Flight attendants in the photographic images
Jo Stanley: Maid, warder, hostess and co-adventuring consumer: the main types of emotional relationships between stewardesses and their female passengers on sea voyages.
Bobbie Sullivan: Private jet cabin crew: an ethnographic perspective. Due to illness, Bobbie was unable to attend.
John Urry: Mobility, network capital and gender.
Drew Whitelegg: From “destination” to “post-destination” in the lives of airline cabin crew.
Helena Wojtczak: Railwaywomen: from exploited drudge in 1830 to train driver in the twenty-rst century.