Women of other backgrounds, including Chinese, Yemeni, and African women are almost entirely absent. This is a brief introduction to Chinese women's relationship with sea mobility and British seafaring.
|Adam Williams, his Chinese amah, and mother Anne at one of Hong Kong's many bays, 1956. |
Chinese women accessed the sea and mobility because of their work.
Image courtesy of https://www.adam-williams.net/2013/05/17/adams-five-generations-of-a-china-family/
A. The answer is that shipping companies deliberately excluded such women, despite their potential for being very cheap labour indeed, as both female and non-white. It's not that such women didn't want to go to sea.
Yet such an objection doesn't seem quite plausible. White European women living in countries such as Singapore, Shanghai, Malaya, and Hong Kong readily employed Chinese servants, especially amahs (children's nurses, even wet nurses) in their homes.
|Children were an increasing presence on ships after WW2. Their nannies, including ayahs and amahs, attended as part of their working day. Image from Tim Roberts' story, http://www.archhistory.co.uk/taca/memsmisc.html|
B. Ayahs. 阿媽. Children's nurses - especially from India, Ceylon and non-mainland China. They were employed by the traveller's family, not by the shipping line. They therefore travelled as passengers although they worked all the voyage long. This included the usual nursing, dressing, playing with their charges, plus attending at children's sittings for meals on ship, such as the tea party pictured above.
took ''over the domestic economy and husbandry of each vessel. They washed and ironed, cleaned ship, chipped rust and painted, attended as buoy jumpers, and, dressed in their best, waited with grace and charm upon guests at cocktail parties.
Captains and first lieutenants would find fresh flowers in their cabins and newspapers delivered daily ...[jenny earned] by selling soft drinks to the ships' companies and scavenging every item of scrap and gash which could be found on board.'
Could have been in...
|Amah holding Linga in HongKong, c 1919. |
Image via https://gwulo.com/atom/28110
Any researcher wanting to go further in exploring men might try these sources, for starters:
B. One of the recent digitally-available interviews with/about Chinese seafaring men includes this: Yew Chang (1919-2012). Pictured. From Hong Kong, he was a merchant seafarer from c1938 to the early 1950s. Initially in the engine room then a cook, he worked for the Netherlands company Shell, later Royal Dutch Shell group. Many Chinese seafarers in the UK worked for Blue Funnel.
The British Chinese Heritage Centre has made available two interviews with him: http://www.britishchineseheritagecentre.org.uk/interviews/seafaring/item/mr-yew-chang and http://www.britishchineseheritagecentre.org.uk/interviews/seafaring/item/mr-yew-chang-2.
C.You could try searching the records of the London School of Nautical Cookery, currently held in the National Maritime Museum Archive, London, at SAH/63.They may include Chinese men, because cooking was one of the jobs Chinese men did on ships, especailly when Chinese food became more popular in the UK. https://collections.rmg.co.uk/archive/objects/469748.html