Maiden Voyages by Siân Evans

Book: Maiden Voyages

Author: Siân Evans

Genre: Nonfiction; History; Biography

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: August 10, 2021

Format: ebook

Length: 368 pages

This well-researched nonfiction book explores the golden age of transatlantic ocean liner travel with a focus on the female perspective. From roughly 1910 through 1950, “floating hotels” like the Olympic, the Aquitania, the Queen Mary, and the Titanic changed the lives of thousands of women. For some women these were tickets to a new life in a new land. For others they were a job opportunity—a way to make a living and to see the world. For others, they were a networking tool and a stage to cement their image. Siân Evans explores all these situations and more on both a general and individual level.

The book is also a look at global events of the early 20th century through the lens of transatlantic travel. The sinking of the Lusitania eventually led to the U.S. joining WWI. Many of the “surplus women”, women who found themselves without marriage prospects after the death of so many men in The Great War, decided to seek gainful employment as stewardess and other onboard positions. In the 1920s, Prohibition in the U.S. led to a change in how and when alcohol was served on ships in American waters or those owned by American companies.

Although this is definitely a history book, complete with references to primary sources, it is very readable for the average person. Especially those with an interest in women’s history, ocean travel, or Downton Abbey-style stories. Siân Evans gives compelling descriptions of both individual women and general life onboard an early 1900s ocean liner. I particularly liked the stories of Victoria Drummond, Martha Gellhorn, Hedy Lamarr, Hilda James, Edith Sowerbutts, and Violet Jessop.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an Advanced Reader Copy.

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