Cover image for Recasting American liberty : gender, race, law, and the railroad revolution, 1865-1920
Recasting American liberty : gender, race, law, and the railroad revolution, 1865-1920
Welke, Barbara Young, 1958-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xx, 405 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

Format :


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Item Holds
HE2757 .W45 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Through courtroom dramas from 1865 to 1920 - of men forced to jump from moving cars when trainmen refused to stop, of women emotionally wrecked from the trauma of nearly missing a platform or street, and women barred from first class ladies' cars because of the color of their skin - Barbara Welke offers a dramatic reconsideration of the critical role railroads, and streetcars, played in transforming the conditions of individual liberty at the dawn of the twentieth century. The three-part narrative, focusing on the law of accidental injury, nervous shock, and racial segregation in public transit, captures Americans' journey from a cultural and legal ethos celebrating manly independence and autonomy to one that recognized and sought to protect the individual against the dangers of modern life. Gender and race become central to the transformation charted here, as much as the forces of corporate power, modern technology and urban space.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Welke (history, Univ. of Minnesota) has written a perceptive and intriguing analysis that not only sheds light on the social and communal effects of rail traffic but also provides a glimpse of the personal consequences of technological change, safety regulations, and policy decisions. The historical significance of railroads as a means of transportation and the impact of rail traffic on the pace and pattern of American industrialization is well established. What is generally less recognized, and what this interesting study demonstrates, is that the economic and social impact of the operation and regulation of railroads reflects a complex history that speaks volumes about US society and the personal lives of its citizens. As the author points out, an individual's freedom of movement goes a long way to defining a person's self-sovereignty and thus individual liberty. This well-organized and extensively documented work considers the significance of such issues as physical and psychological injuries associated with rail traffic as well as the role that gendered policies and racial segregation played in the meaning of individual liberty in industrializing the US. Welke's attentive history reveals how actions and policies within "the railway journey" affected America legal and social development. Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and researchers. T. E. Sullivan Towson University

Table of Contents

Part I The Body: Accidental Injury
1 The railway journey (i): the technological transformation
2 Gendered journeys (i): physical vulnerability
3 The law of accidental injury
Junction: pain and suffering
Part II Mind and Body: Nervous Shock
4 The railway journey (ii): the psychological transformation
5 Gendered journeys (ii): psychological vulnerability
6 The law of nervous shock
Junction: truth, legal storytelling, and the performance of injury
Part III Person: Racial Segregation
7 The Railway journey (iii): the spatial transformation
8 Gendered journeys (iii): status vulnerability
9 The law of racial segregation