Hosted/Organized by: Book Club of California
When the last spike was hammered into the steel track of the Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Point, Utah, Western Union lines sounded the glorious news of the railroad’s completion from New York to San Francisco.
For more than five years an estimated four thousand men moved like a vast assembly line toward the end of the track. Editorials in newspapers and magazines praised the accomplishment and some boasted that the work that “was begun, carried on, and completed solely by men.” Godey’s Lady’s Book even reported “No woman had laid a rail and no woman had made a survey.”
Although the physical task of building the railroad had been achieved by men, women made significant and lasting contributions to the historic operation.
The female connection with railroading dates as far back as 1838 when women were hired as registered nurses/stewardesses in passenger cars. Beyond nursing and service roles, however, women played a larger part in the actual creation of the rail lines than they have been given credit for.
Author Chris Enss shares the stories of women who helped build the railroad in her book Iron Women.
A live online presentation by Chris Enss, author and screenwriter