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From the National Park Service:
Maritime history is filled with stories of great sailing ships, plying the massive oceans of the world, run by rugged, swaggering, masculine sailors. It may be that the 19th century sailing vessel was a male dominated and defined world, yet women are assuredly part of this rich history.
For different reasons women through the centuries have stepped outside the status quo, beyond societal definitions of what is suitably feminine. These reasons included responding to dire emergencies while at sea, patriotic wartime duty, economic necessity, a chance at a better life, search for adventure, devotion, and love.
Women in the Age of Sail
Seagoing careers were closed to women during the sailing ship era. A woman might disguise herself as a man and assume a fictitious name; but if she was discovered, her career would be over. The only way for most women to take part in running a merchant vessel before 1900, when sailing ships reigned supreme, was through marriage or by being the captain’s daughter.
The captain’s wife might have learned the art of navigation in a girl’s finishing school, or from her husband or one of the mates (officers).
The captain and his wife in their cabin. If she was interested, and the captain allowed it, his wife might assist him in running the ship.
Usually when a captain’s daughter grew into her teens, she was forbidden to take part in sailor’s work; she was expected to be a lady. The children were not allowed to go forward of the poop deck (the captain’s deck at the stern or back end of the vessel). However, father may have looked the other way when his son sneaked forward to lend the sailors a hand. On British ships the captain could hire his wife as an officer or stewardess, or the first mate’s wife might be the stewardess. The stewardess kept financial records, served meals, and cleaned the after-quarters.
Through diaries and letters, a picture can be composed of women and girls aboard sailing vessels. Eight year old Laura Jernegan wrote this letter, while sailing with her father, Captain Jared Jernegan aboard the whaling bark Roman.
In emergencies the captain’s wife might lend a hand. Caroline Mayhew, wife of Captain William Mayhew of the whaling ship Powhaton out of Martha’s Vineyard, possessed a working knowledge of navigation and practical medicine. In 1846 when a small pox epidemic broke out aboard ship, she took over as captain in place of her stricken husband. She then ministered to him and the ailing crew, saving their lives. Medicine chest of a sea captain.
Heroines, Homemakers and Hard Workers
During the nineteenth century several women took on responsibilities that were considered exclusively in the realm of men, and gained worldwide attention for their heroic actions. Others, because of economic necessity, stepped beyond stereotypical roles as wives and mothers.
A remarkable woman, Mary Patten, temporarily took command of a clippership in the 1850s. In July 1856, Neptune’s Car left New York City for San Francisco. Captain Joshua Patten was in command and accompanying him was his wife, Mary, nineteen years old and pregnant. She had married at sixteen and had already been to sea on several voyages during which her husband had taught her how to navigate.
Mistrusting the first mate, the captain removed him from his position and took on his duties. As the ship was rounding Cape Horn, Captain Patten fell ill, his hearing and eyesight failing. Next in line for command was the second mate, but he could not navigate. Mary Patten assumed command, with the second mate’s help and the support of the crew. Navigating and caring for her husband filled every moment; for fifty days she was unable to change clothes. The ship arrived in San Francisco November 1856. The insurers of the vessel rewarded her with one thousand dollars. Mary Patten and her husband returned to New York where she gave birth to a son. Sadly, her husband died three months later.
Eliza Thorrold continued to operate the 44-foot steam tug Ethel and Marion on the San Francisco Bay after her husband, Captain Charles Thorrold, died from blood poisoning in 1893. Even though she controlled the tug, the law required that a licensed master be on board if the vessel was transacting business.
Mrs. Thorrold, discussing her application for a tugboat master’s license, in an interview published in the San Francisco Call newspaper, July 30, 1897: “I have long contemplated this move. In fact, my circumstances compel me to become the master of my own boat. As you know, my husband died several years ago and left me with five little children to support and only the tug Ethel and Marion to do so with. What I am unnecessarily obliged to pay for a master for the boat would support the entire family. Four years on the Bay has made me familiar with the practical handling of the boat, and all I want is a license to do what I am competent to do.”
By 1900 Eliza had sold the tug, and in 1915 she and her son opened a neighborhood ice cream and candy store which she operated until her death in 1935.
In 1877 Mrs. Crapo was determined to be with her husband and insisted on sailing with him on a daring, 3000-mile long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to England in a small, open boat. Her husband initially refused to let her accompany him but she was determined to go. The two arrived safely in England and Thomas Crapo described their arrival: “The crowds gathered waiting for a chance to see us. Mrs. Crapo was the lion of the hour.”
Alice Durkee, wife of Alfred Durkee who was captain of the Balclutha from 1894-1899, sailed with her husband on and off during his 30-year seafaring career. She gave birth to a daughter, Inda Francis, on board the ship.
In the Shipyard
In 1562 Dutch widow Geert Jans inherits a shipyard from her husband and runs the yard. In 1770 Mary Lacy, disguised as a man, receives her shipwright certificate in England and works among male shipbuilders. In the 1940s Mrs. Fulton inherits and operates her husband’s shipyard north of San Francisco. Read more here…
reblogged by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
From the Wall Street Journal via Associated Press: More than 1 million historical artifacts and documents from the Ellis Island Immigration Museum have been moved to storage facilities while damage to the island from Superstorm Sandy is repaired.
The museum sits on an island next to the Statue of Liberty in the center of New York Harbor. It’s closed due to severe damage to its infrastructure. The statue also is closed.
The collection was unharmed by the late October storm. But museum superintendent Dave Luchsinger says it’s impossible to maintain the climate-controlled environment needed to protect the artifacts because there’s no power.
Most of the items were moved in recent weeks to the federal Museum Resources Center in Landover, Md. The Mudder Museum collection from Ellis Island’s Ferry Building previously was moved to the Harpers Ferry conservation center in West Virginia.
reblogged by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
Nichols Marina’s 350 floating slips were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, and now boaters have been told that the National Parks Service has refused to renew the lease that would allow the marina operators to rebuild.
The NPS owns the marina which they lease to Marinas of the Future Inc., an operator that oversees and maintains Great Kills Park in the Gateway National Recreation Area. Marinas of the Future wants to rebuild the docks, but as the NPS site notes: Hurricane Sandy destroyed all docks at the Great Kills Marina, so marina services for the 2013 summer season are not possible.
Although the marina lost all of its floating slips during the storm, most of the pilings remain. Marina management reports that the bulkhead and infrastructure were not badly damaged and that their office facilities, restrooms and equipment are all in working order.
From the Staten Island Advance: “The fact that we’re even having this fight is ridiculous,” said Rep. Michael Grimm, an avid supporter of the cause who attended yesterday’s rally with more than 100 other boaters. “It will be devastating to the boating community if the National Parks Service doesn’t allow them to rebuild.”
Because the private community has offered to pay the costs to rebuild, Grimm said the National Park Service’s stance doesn’t make any sense. “That marina helps to drive the local economy. The National Parks Service needs to recognize the value of this marina.”
On Sunday, boaters rallied to express their frustration and sadness over the National Parks decision.
From WPIX11: “This place is like family to me. Where else will I put my boat? “I’ve been hanging out here for 12 years with my friends,” Pete Palermo of Staten Island said. “Where else would I go?”
Palermo gets teary-eyed when he and his buddies talk about what the Nichols Great Kills Park Marina means to them.
“It’s like family to me,”
The current leaseholder, the Marinas of the Future, have been told they have no future here. The National Park Service said all boats have to be removed by April 15.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island have been closed since Oct. 29 and will remain closed until further notice. The National Park Service expects to know within a month the total cost and time it will take to repair storm damage. Until then, officials can’t even speculate when Liberty and Ellis Islands will be able to reopen to visitors.
Although the statue itself was not damaged by the storm, Liberty Island suffered significant damage to its infrastructure. Bricks were ripped up from pavements and Liberty Island’s dock, where tourists arrive by ferry may need to be rebuilt completely.
From Reuters: “The walkway just got lifted off the pilings and shifted off its support,” Litterst [a National Park Service spokesman] said. “We may be able to repair the dock if it’s still structurally sound, but if not it will have to be replaced, and that’s a longer process.”
The Statue of Liberty had just completed an extensive $30-million renovation project that closed her crown to visitors for a year. Her long-awaited re-opening lasted for just six hours before Sandy crashed into New York Harbor.
Damage to her flood-water soaked mechanical systems had laid the iconic structure dark until last Friday when Lady Liberty was illuminated for the first time since the massive storm thanks to the generosity of two NJ companies –Musco Lighting and Natoli Construction.
From the NYDaily News: The iconic monument will remain aglow with the help of generators and equipment donated by two private companies. The statue’s torch and crown are being illuminated by Natoli Construction, the contractor who had worked on a recent renovation project. Musco Lighting, a company that specializes in lighting stadiums and arenas, has donated the goods to light the monument.
Ellis Island remains in the dark, but thankfully according to museum officials, there is little or no damage to the curatorial and archival collections stored in the Immigration Building.
by Mai Armstrong for Working Harbor Committee