Monday 30 January 2023

New book on gender and the sea just out!

This year the Women's History Yearbook (# 41) is focusing on Gender at Sea. It's rare that a multi-authored, multinational book focusing on a 'minority' in maritime life hits the bookshelves.

Gender at Sea is so rich  and diverse. In all my years of reading such books it feels like the last one that excited me as much was Iron Men, Wooden Women in 1996.  

Yes, I've got a chapter in Gender at Sea. So I would be delighted, wouldn't I? But even if I wasn't a contributor I'd still be welcoming all these fascinating new angles on the subject. 

Editor Djoeke van Netten and the Editorial Board write in their summary:

"For centuries seafaring people thought that the presence of women on board would mean bad luck: rough weather, shipwreck, and other disasters were sure to follow. Because of these beliefs and prejudices women were supposedly excluded from the maritime domain. 

In the field of maritime history too, the ship and the sea have generally been perceived as a space for men. "This volume of the Yearbook of Women's History challenges these notions. It asks: 

  • To what extent were the sea and the ship ever male-dominated and masculine spaces? 
  • How have women been part of seafaring communities, maritime undertakings, and maritime culture?
  •  How did gender notions impact life on board and vice versa?

 "From a multidisciplinary perspective, this volume moves from Indonesia to the Faroe Islands, from the Mediterranean to Newfoundland; bringing to light the presence of women and the workings of gender on sailing, whaling, steam, cruise, passenger, pirate, and navy ships. 

"As a whole it demonstrates the diversity and the agency of women at sea from ancient times to the present day.

See picture of celebrations on launch day, 27 January, at the Netherlands National Maritime Museum, in Amsterdam.  (Pic courtesy of Bob van de Poll)

Published in Hilversum Netherlands, this book may not be as widely circuated as it deserves elsewhere.

Therefore I'm including the contents list. That way you can see that this is a book that should be on the shelf of everyone in the maritime industries, worldwide. 


Iris van der Zande on behalf of the Editorial Board. Preface

Djoeke van Netten. Introduction:Taking Women on Board.

PART 1. Women and Children First: Uncovering the Presence of Women and Children on Board

Laurel Seaborn. Searching for Signs of Seafaring Women in the Age of Sail

Sarah Lentz. Overlooked Inhabitants of the ‘Wooden World’. Child Passengers as Part of Shipboard Societies in the Age of Sail

Joan Druett. ‘The Late Fashion;’ Discovering Whaling Wives at Sea

Kristof Loockx. Jackie of All Trades. The Emergence of Stewardesses in the Belgian Fleet, 1870-1914

Iris van der Zande. The Cruise Tourist’s Corset: Gender, Space, and Mobility on Dutch Youth Cruises in the 1930s

PART 2. Experiences at Sea: Women Travelling from Europe to Asia and Australia

Simon Karstens. An Unfaithful Wife and a Cross-Dressing Soldier:Christian Burckhardt’s Report of Two Women Sailing to Batavia in 1675

 Neptune Ceremony, Wasp,1942.
Image with thanks to https://

Felicity Jensz. Neptune’s Visit Made Palatable. Gender and Journeys over the Line in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century

Ron Brand and Kirsten Kamphuis. Zusters op zee: Reiservaringen van missiezusters naar Nederlands-Indië en Indonesië in de negentiende en twintigste eeuw

Emily Hutcheson. Women in Ocean Science: The Two-Part Research Programme of the Siboga Expedition

Vicki S. Hallett.  Salt Fish Maids. Untold Stories of Gender and Sex in the Labrador Floater Fishery

PART 3. Violence and Victims: Gendered Agency on Board

Virginia W. Lunsford. Piracy and the Hidden History of Female Agency. The Case of the Buccaneers

Alicia Schrikker. Januari’s schim

Elisa Camiscioli.  Sexing the Steamship,Prostitution, Trafficking, and Maritime Travel

UK radio officers in training, in the early 1970s when the first women were being admitted - and encountering systemic sexism. The trainer is saying "We shall devote this morning's lesson to mutual induction and double-humped curves."

Jo Stanley. Women/Sea/Misogyny:Ending Silences about Sexual Abuse at Sea

Víctor Ramírez Tur. Problematizing Homoerotic Relationships on the High Seas. The Exhibition ‘Desire Flows Like the Sea’

Image from Barcelona Maritime Museum's "Desire Flows Like the Sea"

PART 4. 
Stories to be Told. Power and Representations of Women at Sea

Roberta Franchi. Woman and the Sea in Classical and Christian Texts

Muhammad Buana. The Stranger Sea Queens: Gender, Migration, and Power in Sulawesi and Javanese Traditions

Stefan Roel Reyes. ‘Tweete Sielle’: The Affective Presence of Women in the Sailing Letters of Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Dutch Seafarers

Valerie Sallis. Spiritual Anchors or Sinful Shoals; Women, Religion, and Spirituality in the Shipboard Writings of American Sailors,1810-1859

Russell Fielding and Ina Seethaler. Women and Whaling in the Faroe Islands

Getting it

Price 32 Euros. Paperback. 308  pages, with illustrations.  ISBN 9789464550399. Obtainable via

Friday 6 January 2023

Celebrating Pride in Maritime day 2023. Queer seafarers



Dutch gay seafaring steward from the SS Rotterdam looks at his voyage album, late 20C. He's helping in the Amsterdam Maritime Museum research project, 'Queer Spaces at Sea. Queer culture on merchant ships 1950 - 1980

Celebrating Pride in Maritime Day, Tues Feb 28 2023. This year join in some wonderful opportunities to celebrate queer seafarers and their place in maritime heritage: 

  • exhibitions
  • talks
  • events .

So why not try:

1. Seeing two European exhibitions on now till summer (both with English subtitles)

# Bergen, Norway: ‘Queer Lives at Sea’

# Amsterdam Maritime Museum, Netherlands. As yet 'Queer Spaces at Sea. Queer culture on merchant ships 1950 -1980' is in its early stages. 

Bob van de Poll, Curator of 
 Amsterdam's Queer Spaces
at Sea project

Curator Bob van de Poll invites you to:

  • Join in if you have memories. 
  • Read/hear stories. 
  • See the first-ever film of LGBT+ crew reminiscing about the oddly out -and-proud ships' subcultures in those early days.

Queer Spaces at Sea' is part of the wonderful new exhibition, Humans at Sea:

2. Helping develop Pride in Maritime Day 

It’s only the second year of its existence. Tuesday 28 Feb 2023. So let’s big it up. And join in the Diversity in Maritime UK discussion at

3. Catching this info, in talks, posts and films throughout LGBT+ history month. I’ll be sharing stories about:

Wendy at his piano in Hull, lifting spirits as he did
at sea.Picture courtesy Harriet Jones. 
# Entertaining 4 sanity@sea:  Roy ‘Wendy’ Gibson: steward, Falklands Conflict hero, and Hull’s answer to pianist Liberace 

You can hear about people - especially queer seafarers - who raised shipboard morale by making music and theatre. 
Discover how the exceptional gay-affirmative sub-culture on late 20C ships enabled some LGBT+ people to boost their mental health despite gruelling homophobia ashore. 
Show-biz style fun kept you sane at sea! Watch this space and social media for updates.

Comparing Europe’s queer maritime past 
New stories are emerging of Norwegian, Scandinavian and Dutch LGBT+ seafarers’ lives at sea. 
Compare revelations of below-decks fun and work, love and tourism, on late 20C ships of different countries. Watch this space and social media for updates on venues and dates.

1968: Yes, gay seafarers were aboard seemingly the queerest Dutch ship, Rotterdam, with two other ships of the Holland-America Line (Maasdam and Ryndam) at the Wilhelminakade in Rotterdam

For a roundup including Canada's exhibition on gay seafarers see also