Seminar ‘Always watching for distant sails’? New England Women and the Sea, 1790-1890

Subject Fields: American History / Studies, Maritime History / Studies, Social History / Studies, Women’s & Gender History / Studies

Date and Time: 18 May 2021 | 5.15pm – 6.30pm– UK

In 1896, American author Sarah Orne Jewett observed that, in a small village on the Maine coast, the men and women alike had ‘a far-off look that sought the horizon…always watching for distant sails.’ As Jewett made clear, boys and girls learnt their ‘far-off look’ from different vantage points: boys from the decks of ships, girls from the rocky shores. Everyone knew that only men went to sea.

Seafaring has indeed been one of the most sex-segregated of all types of work for centuries, and maritime history has most often followed men to sea. But, to fully understand maritime worlds of the past, we must look beyond just what happened on boats and ships. Sailors and fishermen who plied the oceans depended on women performing overlooked yet essential labour, both unpaid and paid, on land. In this free online talk, Dr Lisa Norling will explore the history of New England shipping, fishing and whaling from the vantage point of women ashore, from Maine and Massachusetts to coasts frequented by American ships on the other side of the world.

How were New England families, communities and local economies held together by women during the 1800s? Why is it so important to study their lives? Was the gendered divide between land and sea as clear-cut as popular culture, literary canon and much historical writing has suggested?

This event is free and open to everyone, and will take place via Zoom. You can join the event via our webpage.

There is no need to book; please click on the button below shortly before 5.15pm on the day.

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Contact Info: Lucy Dale

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