In the 19th century, women were limited to unpaid work such as household chores, gathering, harvesting, and caring for families. At that political moment when independence was creating the new nation, the role of women would not be left to the decision of men. Academic currents from the first world arrived in Mexico that allowed for female progress (liberal philosophy and a positivist model).

Women began to seize the new opportunities offered by modernity regardless of the moral criticism society placed on their shoulders.

The traditional models of women and the family with the arrival of modernism and enlightenment thought were broken, women assumed new responsibilities such as the education of their children, which brought them closer to their goal of becoming professionals. It was the means through which they began to access intellectual information from which they were excluded.

Even being denied access to citizenship and the exercise of political and legal rights, there were women like Margarita Chorne who made the decision to abandon their household tasks or activities designated by their families to learn a trade in the health area and be part of this freedom dreamed of for many years of oppression.

Railway Women

Parallel to the struggle to change the role of women in society, the arrival of the railway in Mexico achieved economic progress that not only gave work to Mexican workers but also to women, who were a watershed in maintaining the railway gear. Next, we share a story that will make you travel and delve into a story inspired by the life of Margarita Chorne and Salazar, the first woman to obtain a university degree in Latin America.

Did you know that a long time ago, more than 100 years ago, people traveled by train to visit their friends, family, and acquaintances? On the trains you could hear stories in each car, from conversations with the passenger next to you, elegant meals from the train managers, conversations of the crew that could be heard throughout the caboose, the talks of the driver and the stoker who witnessed the boiler of firewood and coal in the steam locomotive, and the thousands of stories that were in the mail car, in the letters waiting for their arrival to be discovered.

One of these letters was from Margarita, a very intelligent young woman, outstanding in music for her great piano skills and fond of dentistry. Every month she wrote to her friend Amelia from the capital of the country; her letters traveled in the mail car to the city of Puebla and these were transported by cart to Amelia's house

Amelia always included in her responses pressed flowers from the forest she visited every day and told Margarita about her adventures as an explorer and lover of botany.

The writings of both were exquisite, wonderful, and extraordinary, filled with adventures, experiences, and dreams. One day, Margarita wrote to her friend an incredible piece of news, her dream of becoming a dental surgeon would finally come true.

Dear Amelia

I write to you with great emotion because I am so close to fulfilling the dream of my life, to become a prestigious dentist. I have spent sleepless nights alongside my brother Rafa who has helped me study the anatomy of the face and neck, names of dental tissues, and many more topics. To the point that we even became translators using French books and dental magazines from North America. Honey, I hope to see you, and to be able to walk with you towards the school of medicine, to see the cobbled streets, clean and with the scent of the morning dew.

Without further ado, I bid you farewell, thank you for the flowers, you are undoubtedly a great botanist.

With much love, your friend Margarita.

After many efforts, she had been granted a date to take her professional exam. The exam would take place on January 18, 1886, only 20 days away, and Margarita's letter had not arrived in the city of Puebla, her writing had been left among the chests that guarded the valuable objects of the passengers.

Days passed and the letter remained lost, it arrived in Puebla, returned to Mexico City, and even traveled to Veracruz. Until 5 days before Margarita's exam, one of the guards of the mail car, noticed the letter and took it to one of the wooden shelves. The letter arrived in the city of Puebla and was delivered to Amelia.

Upon reading the letter, Amelia, very excited, ran and prepared her suitcases to visit her friend. She went straight to the Mexican Railroad station and bought her ticket to the capital. The 10-hour journey was quite an adventure, the sound the train made and hearing its whistle was what Amelia liked the most.

She arrived just in time, and that Monday afternoon, January 18, 1886, Amelia entered the auditorium of the School of Medicine of Mexico and witnessed an impressive and historic event, her 21-year-old friend took her exam to obtain the title of dental surgeon.

Inspired by the amazing story of Margarita Chorné y Salazar.

The National Museum of Mexican Railways

In Mexico, in the city of Puebla, there is an exceptional museum, the National Museum of Mexican Railways, in it is the oldest and best-preserved station in the country and a huge collection of steam locomotives and wagons of all kinds.

The Steam Locomotives

In the museum is one of the oldest locomotives in the country, number 40, which operated from 1881 to 1956, running the Mexican Route, from Mexico City to Veracruz. These machines worked by burning wood and/or coal in an external boiler, which heated the water; the pressure of the steam helped move the pistons to drive the wheels, these locomotives ran up to 56km/h (Figure 1).

The locomotive guided the train; in it was the engineer, in charge of operating the transport safely, and the stoker, who placed the wood and/or coal in the boiler.

Figure 1. Steam Locomotive 40 from the National Museum of Mexican Railways.

Second Class Passenger Car NdeM-4964

This wagon was bought in the USA in 1959, it was made between 1940 and 1950 as a first-class car, upon arriving in Mexico, it was used as a second-class wagon because it was not in a good condition; in it could travel between 83 to 90 passengers. It is a very striking piece of the museum, it has seats of an intense red color, the walls and ceilings are made of reddish wood with decorations in green and gold, with fans that refreshed the place and window protectors that were used to prevent a rock from hitting the glass and injuring the passengers.

Mail Car NdeM-2555

This car was used to transport correspondence and parcels from the citizens of all states and train passengers. During the era, it was quite common for these cars to be found behind the steam locomotive. This car was acquired by the company Ferrocarriles Nacionales Mexicanos in 1972.

The Caboose

Another fundamental piece of the train was the caboose, a car intended for the workers and the conductor. The caboose was the last car, usually yellow, to announce the end of the train. In it traveled the conductor, the highest authority, who checked through the lookout that everything was in order. Here were bedrooms, a small dining room, and bathrooms for the entire crew.

The Handcars

These vehicles were used to inspect the train tracks and transport tools, in emergency cases, they were employed to transport engines. They were also used on the haciendas to transport products or people (Figure 2).

Figure 2. The handcar, inspection vehicles.

To learn more about the Railroad in Mexico, you can visit the museum's digital magazine "Mirada Ferroviaria" where you will find very interesting information that will take you back 150 years.