The California State Railroad Museum recently reintroduced an exhibit titled “Crossing Lines: Women of the American Railroad” that was originally ready for its public debut at the start of the pandemic.
The local exhibit was written, designed, and curated entirely by women who shared a common goal to tell stories about the lives and roles of women associated with the railroad industry. And, as part of an ongoing effort by the Museum to nurture the next generation of museum professionals and scholars, the exhibit was the result of a graduate student internship and master’s thesis of Sacramento State student Nicole Allison. The exhibit is designed for Museum visitors to gain a heightened appreciation for the role of women railroad workers, and to experience a sense of empowerment and inspiration based on the considerable contributions women made to the railroad industry and society in general.
Dating back to 1838 when women first started working in the railroad industry, some of the trailblazing women who challenged the system and who are showcased in the new “Crossing Lines” exhibit include the following: Modesta Avila, Shirley Burman, Jennie Curtis, Olive Wetzel Dennis, Anna Judah, Leah Rosenfeld, Rosina Tucker, and the Railroadettes of World War II. Museum visitors will discover the roles of women in railroading have changed over time. While women in railroading today are responsible for the same jobs as men, women in the railroad industry’s early days were more likely to be restaurant keepers, telegraph operators, station agents or Harvey Girls (gracious servers of “good character” that made travel more enjoyable, a popular role created by visionary entrepreneur Fred Harvey).
Rather than a traditional exhibit set in a contained space, the “Crossing Lines” exhibit is displayed and incorporated into various locations throughout the Museum to allow for greater interpretation about the various impacts of women in the workforce. The important new exhibit will remain on display permanently.
Viewing and experiencing the exhibit during normal Museum hours is included with admission: $12 for adults; $6 for youths ages 6-17; free for children ages 5 and under. For more information about the California State Railroad Museum or Foundation, please visit www.californiarailroad.museum.