Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them

St. Martin’s. Aug. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781250246462. $28.99. HIST
In her latest work, Evans (Queen Bees: Six Brilliant and Extraordinary Society Hostesses between the Wars) chronicles the lives of a number of women who took to cruise ships during the early 20th century and analyzes how their lives and gender roles changed throughout. In each chapter, Evans focuses on either a point in history or a particular woman, or group of women, and discusses how they impacted seafaring. She writes, for instance, that Prohibition increased the popularity of cruises with Americans in particular, for the access to alcohol it afforded. Evans also examines the women (all of them white) who blazed trails as cruise ship engineers, or in other male-dominated positions, with the benefit of family backing. She also writes about the famous women trendsetters and movers and shakers who enjoyed the first-class compartments on cruise ships, and cruising companies’ creating even posher settings on ships to attract wealthy women passengers. All in all, Evans writes a compelling account of how ocean travel—for white women, in particular—evolved in concert with women’s roles in the cruise industry during the early 20th century.
VERDICT This fast-paced, well-written social history will appeal to fans of women’s history who enjoy reading interesting life stories.
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