It's rather funny that the very day the world's e-media comes up with TWO stories about women seafarers' successes in modern times, I get information about how their counterparts fared 150 years earlier. You absolutely had to be mistake-able for a lad, if you wanted a job at sea.
In her stunningly commodious online treasure trove my friend Helena Wojtczak has put no less than 13 original 19C newspaper stories of women seafarers who crossed dressed to get work at sea. See them at http://www.facebook.com/l/e757cYSCwGjZPCKYdUHJ4TAHyhg/www.historyofwomen.org/sailors.html
Perhaps best of all, it was joked that every Jack Tar might really be Jill - not transsexual or transvestite but absolutely born female.
On March 25 1843 The Examiner said that 2-3 years earlier - ie 1840 - 'there was a great run on female sailors. Every newspaper has its paragraph announcing the discovery of a female sailor.
'The result was a thorough conviction in the public mind that all sailors were female sailors - that there were no other sailors than female sailors in disguise; and now the curiosity would be the discovery of a male sailor, if such a phenomenon could be well authenticated.'
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