Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society: Recasting American Liberty: Gender, Race, Law, and the Railroad Revolution, 1865-1920

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Through courtroom dramas from 1865 to 1920 - of men forced to jump from moving cars when trainmen refused to stop, of women emotionally wrecked from the trauma of nearly missing a platform or street, and women barred from first class ladies' cars because of the color of their skin - Barbara Welke offers a dramatic reconsideration of the critical role railroads, and streetcars, played in transforming the conditions of individual liberty at the dawn of the twentieth century. The three-part narrative, focusing on the law of accidental injury, nervous shock, and racial segregation in public transit, captures Americans' journey from a cultural and legal ethos celebrating manly independence and autonomy to one that recognized and sought to protect the individual against the dangers of modern life. Gender and race become central to the transformation charted here, as much as the forces of corporate power, modern technology and urban space.