She's Been Working on the Railroad

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Women's unknown but important contribution working on the railroads is explored in this eye-opening account by award-winning author Nancy Smiler Levinson. She has written the book in collaboration with Shirley Burman, a photographer and foremost expert on the subject of women railroad workers. Tracing their rise from domestic service jobs in the mid-1830s to positions vacated when men went off to fight in two world wars, the book shows how women overcame prejudice to take their place on the railroad workforce. ...
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Overview

Women's unknown but important contribution working on the railroads is explored in this eye-opening account by award-winning author Nancy Smiler Levinson. She has written the book in collaboration with Shirley Burman, a photographer and foremost expert on the subject of women railroad workers. Tracing their rise from domestic service jobs in the mid-1830s to positions vacated when men went off to fight in two world wars, the book shows how women overcame prejudice to take their place on the railroad workforce. They have served in all capacities, including telegraph operators, architects, yardmasters, welders, nurse/attendants, brakemen, locomotive engineers, and even company president. Featured are many profiles and interviews of these ground-breaking pioneers as well as photographs and artifacts from Shirley Burman's extensive collection.

Relates the story of women who have worked on the railroad in ever-increasing numbers and expanding range of jobs from the mid-1800s to the present.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
Photographer Shirley Burman's own photographs, as well as choice examples from her extensive collection of memorabilia about railroad women, illustrate She's Been Working On the Railroad. Ms. Levinson's flowing, anecdote-laden history traces women's progress from 1838's laundresses and service workers through two world wars to today's railroad executives, not to mention the engineers, conductors, brakemen and switchmen!
VOYA - Candace Deisley
The time has come to address the history of women working in fields that traditionally have been dominated by men, and these two titles do an admirable job. It is hard, however, to imagine either being selected by a student browsing for nonfiction. Hard Hatted Women is a well-written, well-edited study, based on interviews and essays from women in a wide variety of "non-traditional, blue-collar" jobs. Twenty-six women in twenty-six lines of work tell of the physical demands of being a carpenter, ironworker, miner, and truck driver, among others. The common thread, though, is sexism. An electrician says, "On one remodel job, a residence for elders, one of the electricians joked about pulling the fire alarm and raping all the women residents-mostly in their eighties and nineties.... When I tried to say why a comment like that wasn't funny, he suggested that I could rape all the men." Martin unveils the sexism and harassment in full spectrum. She's Been Working on the Railroad focuses on the many tasks, blue-collar and otherwise, women have done in railroading. Individual biographies focus on a variety of jobs: stewardess-nurse, research engineer, dispatcher, locomotive engineer, and telegraph operator. The well-done scholarly approach features a glossary and notes, as well as an index. The volume has eye appeal: many photographs and lots of white space entice the reader. The outlook of this book is more positive and appropriate for the age-level intended. Levinson gives examples of the sexism these women faced, but does so without an emphasis on harassment. She writes of a railroad Brahman: "She was an enthusiastic student, but every day the men tried to discourage her by making demeaning remarks, such as calling women inferior, and by telling her horror stories about accidents and deaths on the railroad." The brutal honesty of the first volume might be frightening to younger, less sophisticated girls. For example, there is a reference to a man putting his hand down a woman's pants, and forms of the word "shit" are used over and over. But each of these books leaves the reader with a sense of pride in these women who have overcome great obstacles to enter their fields. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading. Note: This review was written and published to address two titles: Hard-Hatted Women: Life on the Job and She's Been Working on the Railroad. VOYA Codes: 3Q 1P S (Readable without serious defects, No YA will read unless forced to for assignments, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Joyce Rice
There is a need in almost any media center collection for books about women who have succeeded in male-dominated fields. This historical volume tells the story of some of these women. Sarah Clark Kidder took over as president of a railroad line when her husband died and she inherited controlling shares. Mary Pennington used her science degree to develop better and safer ways for trains to transport perishable foods. Hazel Williams was just one of the girls who traveled across the continent in response to an advertisement for "Harvey Girls," women who served in eating establishments in the West. This excellent text should be included in Women's History units as well as in units dealing with American History.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9--Histories of the North American railroad industry have traditionally focused on the accomplishments of men, but women have been involved in many levels of railroad work from the beginning. Using interviews and other primary sources, Levinson reconstructs the social and historical climate in which women worked. In the late 1800s, Fred Harvey's booming restaurant business created an opportunity for hundreds of "Harvey Girls" to travel and earn wages as cooks, waitresses, and hostesses. They were credited with "civiliz[ing] the Wild West." Levinson also introduces female researchers, architects, entrepreneurs, and engineers from decades past. They worked hard, enjoyed their jobs, and bravely faced resistance and harassment from their male co-workers. Black-and-white photos and sketches throughout complement the text. This book will enhance units on railroad history, westward expansion, or the homefront in World War II. It is a valuable supplement to traditional books on the subject.--Rebecca O'Connell, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Kirkus Reviews
When railroads came into use in America in the 1830s, they were "owned, built, and run by men." In 1838, the first women became employed by the railroads in domestic service jobs. Levinson (Snowshoe Thompson, 1992, etc.) portrays how, through talent and perseverance, women have advanced to become welders, engineers, and executives on the railroads, despite resistance from men. Women were considered "bargains" because they were "honest, productive, dependable, and accepted low pay." Readers will learn about Ella Campbell, a brass pounder (telegraph operator) in the 1870s who helped to head off a train collision; how Ida Hewitt, the first female locomotive engineer in the US, learned the job by riding along with her father; how, in 1901, Sarah Clark Kidder became president of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge to become the first woman to head a railroad company. The black-and-white archival and contemporary photographs add excitement to this remarkable, unusual history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525675457
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/1997
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 7.18 (h) x 0.52 (d)

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