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since June 19, 2001


Working on the Railroad — in the Victorian Age

While women worked hard to secure the right to get the vote and to control the home domain, men died in the work domain. Men were treated like slaves. They died like flies on construction sites. No one cared much, other than that today's feminists gave men the reputation of having been oppressors of women.

....continued from previous page

In the Line of Duty

Here are some items relating to railroad accidents of the late 19th century in Alberta (The Great West before 1900, page 170):  

Fort Macleod Gazette, April 26, 1897: Collision on the C&E near Macleod.  One person killed, one injured.

Same paper, same edition: Bridge over the Oldman River collapses; three cars fall in; brakeman killed; ice pile-up blamed.

Medicine Hat News, December 2, 1897: Freight slams into the rear of a stopped train on the Crow's Nest line; one killed.  (most likely that too was the brakeman in the caboose of the standing train -- WHS)

Same paper, same edition: Bridge collapses; five or six cars roll into the Oldman River; one dead.

Fort Macleod Gazette, April 15, 1898: Wind blows down a coulee bridge under construction nine miles from Lethbridge; five workers killed; six injured.

Medicine Hat News, May 19, 1898: Bridge burns out east of Medicine Hat; 40 cars pile up; engineer and fireman killed.

Fort Macleod Gazette, July 8, 1898: Engine No. 361 struck by minor runaway lumber cars on the Crow's Nest line near Pincher; engineer and fireman killed.

Fort Macleod Gazette, August 5, 1898: Rail worker Joseph Herietha dies on the Crow's Nest line when he falls asleep dead drunk on the tracks and the shouts from the approaching train crew can't awaken him.

Fort Macleod Gazette, September 2, 1898: Train strikes a flatcar with four men working on it on the Crow's Nest line; three killed.

Weekly Herald, January 12, 1899: Brakeman accidentally falls off the end of a train; is dragged 200 yards, train running over his arm; he then falls off a bridge; arm must be amputated; he refuses anesthetic.  "Saw away, doc," he says.  He survives the operation in good condition.

Medicine Hat News, February 2, 1899: Brakes fail to hold train crossing bridge; it rear-ends another train; locomotive and tender plunge into river; three killed."

The sex of the three in the last item wasn't mentioned, but it stands to reason that at least the engineer and the fireman were involved and that both were men.  What is interesting about these items is that the odd case of a man being killed because he was drunk warranted mentioning his name, whereas in all of the other cases it seems that the deaths of men in the performance of their duties were considered to be so normal that their names weren't brought up – in some cases, not even the fact that they were men.  That wasn't necessary. 

Why mention the obvious?  It was expected that it was men who did the dying while working.  Just as the wife of one of my neighbours said to me once when I discussed that with her: "It's men's own fault.  They love risk and therefore they take risky jobs."

Men were and still are the beasts of burden.  They will be nothing more than that as long as there are women like my neighbour's wife.  There were women like that throughout the ages — too many of them.

Feminism four hundred years ago — Oppression of Women?

"It is an amazing thing to see in our city the wife of a shoemaker, or a butcher, or a porter dressed in silk with chains of gold at the throat, with pearls and rings of good value....and then in contrast to see her husband cutting the meat, all smeared with cow's blood, poorly dressed.... but whosoever considers this carefully will find it reasonable, because it is necessary that the lady, even if low born and humble, be draped with such clothes for her natural excellence and dignity, and the man [be] less adorned as if a slave, or a little ass, born to her service."

— Lucrezia Marinella, Venice, Italy, 1600
The Nobility and Excellence of Women Together
With the Defects and Deficiencies of Men

Quoted on page 22 of
If Men Have All the Power How Come Women Make the Rules
(Translation into French)

More of Lucrezia Marinella's writings


Back to first page and index

For other views of the circumstances that affected the position of the sexes and the esteem in which they were held, see:

The Wife at His Side, by Karin Jäckel, The Beginnings of the Women's Movement, and

The Great Train Robbery (it happened in 1855), by Michael Crichton

The Industrial Revolution and the Plight of Men

2000 01 12
2001 02 10 (format changes)
2001 07 14 (added introduction)
2001 07 17 (broke up page into seven pages)
2001 07 22 (added link to The Industrial Revolution and the Plight of Men)
2002 10 13 (minor changes)
2006 11 05 (reformated)