Women Aboard Vessels in Late Nineteenth-century Cornwall

Selina Smith family on board Gem (crop)-350x0

 

Author: Joanna Thomas
Published Date: Aug 31 2011

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In maritime history, there is still a very strong image of men going to sea while the women stayed at home, on shore, to mind the children and possibly to run a business. The research about maritime women at sea is still in its infancy. So far, captains’ wives and stewardesses are the only two categories which have been explored in some depth and it has been argued that to be one of them was the only possible way for a woman to go to sea. It is known that women went to sea as stewardesses on board passenger liner vessels as early as the first half of the nineteenth century. Moreover, there are studies, mainly by American historians, which show that sometimes the wife of a master mariner or a captain went to sea with her husband. This regional study of seafaring women in Cornwall examines the data on women on board shipping and considers the reasons for their presence on board, whether temporary or permanent.