Women and the Sea logo
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Myths and Mermaids
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Life in Port
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Going to Sea
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Lighthouse Keepers
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Changing Roles for Women
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Women in the Military
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Women in Wartime Production
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Early Yachting and Racing
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Women and the Sea in the 20th Century
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In This Chapter


The First Female
River Pilots
Traveling as a



By the mid-nineteenth century, many areas of life—including the waterfront—were beginning to open up to women. With the industrial revolution came new opportunities for women to work. Popular media such as Harper's Weekly began showing women taking on jobs, caring for family, traveling, and enjoying leisure activities such as swimming and sailing.
Returning Home
1887 W. T. Smedley
From Harper's Weekly,
October 22, 1887
The Mariners' Museum Research Library and Archives

During this period, more women began working the water in partnership with their husbands. Some found success carrying on the family business after their husbands died. By the end of the century, satirists and others were even beginning to consider the idea of women in the navy. Little did they know that only a few decades would make this a reality.

With the advent of larger steamships capable of crossing the ocean, it became feasible—then fashionable—for women to travel in pairs or even alone. By the late 1800s, a voyage to Europe had become a key part of a wealthy young American woman's coming of age. This in turn led to an acceptance of female stewards and cooks aboard ocean liners, for well-to-do female passengers could not be expected to be waited on personally by a man.

Using a map of the world, brainstorm on what countries a woman in the nineteenth century could travel to.

Think about travel time, safety, and cultural differences for each of the countries.

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