Exhibition - Heroines At The Helm

Wednesday, Aug 5, 2020

Online
Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724

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The saga of hunting whales was unquestionably viewed as man’s world.  “It is no place for a woman,” wrote Captain James Haviland on the Baltic in 1856, “on board of a whaleship.”

The Whaling Museum's special exhibit, Heroines at the Helm, explores how whaling wives pushed gender roles in two major ways:

· Wives at home became masters of their households. Living almost like a widow, they maintained their families as single parents, took care of elderly parents, paid the bills (or lived on credit), and tended to any farming. Some women became entrepreneurs, running inns, becoming teachers, or serving as midwives.

· Whaling wives broke social barriers by joining their husbands at sea for the first time. A number of captain’s wives broke boundaries by deciding to do what no woman had done before: join their husbands at sea. One can understand their impetus when looking at Azubah Cash of Nantucket. She had been with her husband for half a year out of 11-year marriage, spurring her to sail with him on his next voyage.  She would fill her days educating her children, reading, washing clothes, sewing, writing in her diary, and cross-stitching while confined in cramped quarters to pass the long hours. By the 1850’s, one out of six whaleships carried the captain’s wife aboard.

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