Special Collections at Brunel holds a range of material useful for studying the changing role of women in society, and for more general women’s history. One item giving a window onto women’s lives in a different time is this framed poster warning women to make sure they have respectable, safe, accommodation before travelling to a new town – advice still relevant for everyone today.
The Travellers’ Aid Society was set up in 1885 by the Young Women’s Christian Association in collaboration with organisations such as the Girls’ Friendly Society and the National Vigilance Association. The aim was to have accredited workers meet female passengers on arrival at stations, to help them travel safely and find safe accommodation and work. The Society could vet potential employers or accommodation providers on request. At this time there was a constant stream of young women travelling from rural locations to London to seek jobs in domestic service, many of them vulnerable to exploitation.
From 1939 the Society was run by the National Vigilance Association, and it was wound up in 1952.
For other records of the Travellers’ Aid Society and the National Vigilance Association, contact The Women’s Library which is based at the London School of Economics.
A post by Ginny Dawe-Woodings, Special Collections placement student.
My job as placement student in Special Collections at Brunel University has focused around a map listing project. Most of the maps are railway maps, part of the Transport History Collection, many in black and white, and there have been many photocopies and multiple editions. So when I came across a brightly coloured, cartoon style map I was delighted and a little surprised. In amongst a selection of original maps of tramlines and railways in Wales I found a map entitled ‘The Up and Down Lines’ which depicts railway and pastoral scenes, with references to passages of the Bible. The poster is a brightly coloured pastoral setting, featuring scenes of farming, horse racing, railways, and industrial buildings. Each scene is accompanied by a map reference, for example there is a boxing match scene (by the horse racing) which is labelled with Rom.3.14-17 – “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” The poster isn’t in the best condition, with considerable wear around the edges, but it is a beautiful example of 19th century railway imagery. Initially I wasn’t certain where the map was supposed to be depicting, but with further research using our Transport History Collection I found out that this kind of map is a fictional setting, using railways as an allegory for a life journey. They were produced by the London based ‘Railway Mission’ which provided Christian counselling to railway workers and their families, and were particularly popular during the late 19th century (there is another example of a similar map from 1895). The Railway Mission produced their own monthly publication called the Railway Signal, where poster prints like ours would have been found. The title ‘The Up and Down Lines’ plays on the railway directional terms, where an up line goes towards a major location (eg. London) and and down line goes away from the major location. The Transport History Collection consists largely of material relating to British railway history and the Channel Tunnel. It includes many items, including books, maps, timetables and journals, which are all housed in the Special Collections in Brunel University Library. A description of the collection was recently added to Archives Hub.
All images used with the permission of the Railway Mission, which published Railway Signal and still exists today.