Women At Sea In The Age Of Sail
The turkey dinner with all the trimmings certainly tasted delicious. Mum didn’t even scowl at me as I had my third helping of dressing.
While Cliff and I were waiting for Aunt Sadie to bring in the pies from the pantry, we were hoping she would tell us that we could have pieces of both apple and pumpkin. The adult family members seemed to be more interested in talking about their resolutions and the coming new year than dessert.
Aunt Ethel, who never left the classroom behind her, asked me, “What are your goals for the new year?”
I quickly replied, “I am going to study really hard because when I grow up, I want to be like Tug Boat Annie and be the captain of a ship.”
This comment brought a hoot of laughter from Ken, who announced, “Only men are sea captains!”
I was on the verge of bursting into tears when Mum came to the rescue as she told Ken about Molly Kool who had lived in Alma, near Moncton and in 1939 was the first woman in North America to become a master mariner.
As I read “Women At Sea In The Age Of Sail” by Donal Baird, I was surprised to find that many women had gone to sea, both as employees and as family members.
Many a captain’s wife, while accompanying her husband on long sea voyages, experienced firsthand the perils and pleasures of life at sea. These venturesome women went to sea largely to be with their captain husbands, and while some buckled under the pressures of solitude, boredom, storms, mutiny, and shipwreck, others rose to the challenge of living at sea, proving themselves useful time and again far beyond their role as companions.
Luckily for us, many of these seafaring ladies of the twentieth century, faithfully recorded the events and in so doing left us a porthole to peer through to see life first hand on the high seas in the age of sail.
Annie Parker was the daughter of John and Bessie Parker of Tynemouth Creek, New Brunswick and was married to Captain Daniel Cochrane of Quaco. Her letters, tell of voyages and the decision to make her home in England.
Glorana Harding Price was born in 1859 and grew up in the little farming village of Havelock. She went to Normal School to become a teacher. On August 3, 1881, when she was twenty-one, she married Captain Will Fownes, a sailor from St. Martins. They sailed the world together for twenty years. Due to Will’s poor health, he left the sea and they settled on a chicken farm in California. Upon his death in 1904, Glorana returned home to live with her mother. She died in 1954 at the age of ninety-five.
In 1879, Josephine Reid, as a bride set off to be with her captain husband James Turner. She came home to Harvey in 1880 but returned to the sea and died in 1884. Her widowed husband married her sister, Charlotte.
Beulah Gullison was born in the little village of Beaver River on the Bay of Fundy in 1895. Her early years are spent at sea. She has left colourful recollections of life at home and abroad in her journal.
Captain Edwin Holder was most anxious for his wife Hannah and children Abram and Susan Amelia to join him in New York for his next voyage. Hannah expressed her reluctance due to poor health since the birth of their eighth child. Eleven-year-old Amelia accompanied her parents and kept a diary for most of the six voyages. She had acted as tutor to her sister and brother after her mother’s death. She spent her eighteenth birthday in Holderville. In 1886, at the age of thirty-three she married Benjamin Henderson. Her death occurred in Holderville in 1936.
Donal Baird was raised in Saint John in a home built for a prominent shipbuilder. In his book, “Women At Sea In The Age Of Sail”, he recounts through the writings of several women, their impressions of the exotic places they visited, the homes they made and the children they raised afloat on the seas, and how they survived it all.
By the way, you will find this book is available in local bookstores.
Ruby is a genealogy buff. Readers are invited to send their New Brunswick genealogical queries to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. When E-Mailing please put Yesteryear Families in the Subject line. Please include in the query, your name and postal address as someone reading the newspaper, may have information to share with you but not have access to E-mail. Queries should be no more than 45 words in length.