The Introduction compares the train and railway station to other public spaces in which women roamed freely in the Victorian period, arguing that the train, a semi-public/private space, was an ambiguously gendered space which fostered woman’s impulse to traverse boundaries, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The railway was experienced subjectively by women and opened up new possibilities for self-exploration and growth. Women’s trajectories within and beyond the city and the nation, as urban passengers, travellers, tourists, and exiles play an important role in the making and remaking of their identity as modern subjects in an urban, industrial, and imperial setting. The chapter examines important studies of the socio-cultural impact of the railway (Schivelbusch and Freeman) as well as critical approaches to literary representations of women, mobility, and public space. It also draws on space theorists and geographers such as Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, Doreen Massey, and Tim Cresswell, who view space as socially constructed and constructing, as the product of an ongoing, dynamic process involving nature, politics, culture, and history, in order to interrogate the extent to which women were capable of disrupting ideological beliefs which were implicated in the production of railway spaces.
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