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Fox

Women on Ships

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It would seem that from the Admiralty view and the common theme of Naval or ground force commanders, the leadership would use anything but the truth for an excuse for getting rid of the women. You really don't expect the Admiralty to admit their seamen aren't absolutely disciplined now do ya? ;) I wouldn't think that an official report would read; "our men are out of control, and fighting daily over the attention of the women, and the women are getting all the pay and extra rations of drink in exchange for favors." Wouldn't look good in the Court of the King/Queen, and speaks low of the ability of the commanders. No loyal Briton would ever admit of inability to keep order among his troops or sailors. B):D

Bo

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My suspicions were, that the accusation of excess drinking among the women was simply a convenient excuse to get rid of the ladies. Apparently, it worked.

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It would seem that from the Admiralty view and the common theme of Naval or ground force commanders, the leadership would use anything but the truth for an excuse for getting rid of the women. You really don't expect the Admiralty to admit their seamen aren't absolutely disciplined now do ya? ;) I wouldn't think that an official report would read; "our men are out of control, and fighting daily over the attention of the women, and the women are getting all the pay and extra rations of drink in exchange for favors." Wouldn't look good in the Court of the King/Queen, and speaks low of the ability of the commanders. No loyal Briton would ever admit of inability to keep order among his troops or sailors. :o:D

Bo

Quite the opposite! Admiralty correspondence is full of complaints about the unruliness of seamen.

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Well, they were allowed on board as nurses and laundresses until the BRN decided that was a bad plan.

"In 1703 nurses and laundresses were assigned to the British fleet and paid at the same rate as seamen. Recruited from seaport towns, these women often were the wives of sailors. However, women aboard the vessels caused discipline problems and were the source of much discontent and friction among the crew. Later they were replaced with male nurses, the reason for the policy change given by the navy being the predilection of the women for drink." (Zachary B. Friedenberg, Medicine Under Sail, p. 25)

Interesting... It says "In 1703..." is it specific to that year, or was this already an accepted practice? Also, how much later were they replaced?

Also, would such a practice be employed on a pirate vessel? Say, having a wife aboard as a cook, nurse or laundress? Is there any evidence to support this?

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You have all the information I found. I figure it is better than no information. My understanding is that female nurses on ships was an extremely short-lived practice, though.

As for GAoP pirate vessels, I have only found a few person accounts and none of them mention women on pirate ships (Philip Ashton is the only one that comes immediately to mind for true GAoP.) There are several privateer accounts - Dampier, Edward Cooke, William Funnell, Woodes Rogers, Bartholomew Sharp, Lionel Wafer et al, but none of them mention women on board as I recall - or I'd probably have posted it here.

Much of what you read in the General History seems to have come from court accounts. They always talk about interviews with prisoners, but that seems to have been less important to the substance of the text than the court transcripts from what I've read. (Ed, please correct me if I'm wrong.) The only two true GAoP female pirates I can think of are the famous Bonny and Read who were on the same ship. And they were both hiding their sex, suggesting it was not generally acceptable. (If they weren't, I might still suggest it was because that ship had gradually acquired a different standard based on the way the account reads.)

Edited by Raphael Misson

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Might the lack of documented cases of women on ships, other than as cooks, etc, be for the fact that they dressed, worked and acted like men in order to not be detected? Much as female soldiers of the period, who were not discovered until they either got pregnant, or were wounded and a doctor discovered their true gender. Read and Bonny are mainly famous because they got caught. I suspect there were probably more women serving on ships that were never detected, but I doubt there were very many. The life was a hard one for men, and it would be doubly so for women, and I imagine trying to hide the fact that you were female would be even harder on a ship, where you had zero privacy, than it would be on land.

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Might the lack of documented cases of women on ships, other than as cooks, etc, be for the fact that they dressed, worked and acted like men in order to not be detected? Much as female soldiers of the period, who were not discovered until they either got pregnant, or were wounded and a doctor discovered their true gender. Read and Bonny are mainly famous because they got caught. I suspect there were probably more women serving on ships that were never detected, but I doubt there were very many. The life was a hard one for men, and it would be doubly so for women, and I imagine trying to hide the fact that you were female would be even harder on a ship, where you had zero privacy, than it would be on land.

It might. But the only proof we have for this is that there were some disguised female soldiers (Who? How many? Were they GAoP? How does behavior among soldiers relate to behavior on ships?) and the Bonny and Read story. It's generally not prudent to make rules from exceptions.

Edited by Raphael Misson

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Might the lack of documented cases of women on ships, other than as cooks, etc, be for the fact that they dressed, worked and acted like men in order to not be detected? Much as female soldiers of the period, who were not discovered until they either got pregnant, or were wounded and a doctor discovered their true gender. Read and Bonny are mainly famous because they got caught. I suspect there were probably more women serving on ships that were never detected, but I doubt there were very many. The life was a hard one for men, and it would be doubly so for women, and I imagine trying to hide the fact that you were female would be even harder on a ship, where you had zero privacy, than it would be on land.

I would think it would be imposable for a woman on a ship. Once a woman hits puberty there is no hiding the fact. How would one explain her period?

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Oh, I know. I wasn't thinking of it as a rule, since there is no way to know, and no documentation. I guess it was more a case of me speculating out loud, sort to speak. :D

(And yes, I also know that speculation is not documentation. LOL )

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The information in the General History comes from four main sources: newspaper accounts; other printed matter such as trials; (probably) verbal interviews*; and (most certainly) the author's imagination.

*various possible interviewees have been suggested. It seems likely that they included John Atkins (surgeon of HMS Swallow), and imprisoned pirates Walter Kennedy, Thomas Jones, William Ingrams, Brigstock Weaver; and possibly Woodes Rogers, though some of the bits about Rogers in the book are wrong so there is some doubt.

I believe I gave some information on the 1703 RN nurses on p.1 of this thread.

For other good GAoP accounts you might enjoy William Snelgrave, Richard Hawkins, George Roberts, Robert Drury, John Lazenby. None of the above mention women on ships, and Snelgrave(?) reckoned that it was a general rule amongst the pirates he mingled with not to allow women aboard.

Towards the very end of the GAoP (1728ish) Mary Harvey and Maria Crichett were tried for piracy in colonial Vice-Admiralty courts. In neither case were they involved in ocean-going piracy, but stealing vessels from the shore.

Also, this is a point that I have raised before but I think it might be important: Bonny and Read were not discovered to be women when they were captured, it was known they were women all along. Outside the General History there is no suggestion that they were ever disguised as men, only that they wore men's clothes when necessity of battle dictated.

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To Offer a bit more on Grace O'Malley, her clan had been known to sail the west coast of Ireland for about 3 centuries prior to her taking the helm. The family's reputation was "InvincibLe on land and sea".

When her father, Owen Ui Maile, died, he had no son of age so Grainne took over the whole fleet. This is might be why there is some confusion as to whether or not she was aboard a ship, since she couldn't be aboard more than one at a time. She was married to Donal O'Flaherty when she was 15, and had 2 sons and 1 daughter by him before he died. She then married her first husband's nephew (Richard de Burgh - whom she later divorced), allowing her to remain a princess of the O'Flaherty clan. She had a son by him and of her children, I believe 3 are said to have been born at sea.

She was known for plundering Spanish ships around Clare Island and for collecting tolls from every vessel that passed within 30 miles of the coast of Connaught (where she lived in Carrickhooley Castle, where it was rumored the that her ships were moored at the edge of the penninsula the castle was built upon, with cables that ran from each ship's bow through a window in her bedroom so no movement could be made on her fleet that she wasn't aware of)- including french smugglers. There are accounts that say it was the availability to French brandy and regular pay matched with her foul mouth and colorful threats that kept her crew loyal.

Cheng I Sao (Ching Yih Saou) in my book is named as Shi Xianggu. The pirate fleet she commanded began under the leadership of Zheng Yi, her husband - and once they were married they each commanded the fleet as equals. Which is where Zheng Yi Sao comes from, as it translates into "Wife of Zheng Yi". They not only controlled the South China Sea, but also the Guangdong economy. There are also rumors that there was a third person romantically linked to their marriage - a boy named Zhang Baou who became her second husband after the death of the first. Anyway, this is around the time they helped band several fleets together (seven different pirate leaders were involved) to create the confederation.

Further, from what I've read, women at sea was not unusual in the lower classes in china in the late 1700's/early 1800's. In 1809, Xianggu's fleet captured Richard Glasspoole, an officer from tan East India Company ship - the Maquis of Ely - and held him and 7 other crew members for ransom from September to December. Glasspoole kept a diary of his time as captive and described the conditions on the junks as "filthy" with rats bred for food along with a diet of rice and caterpillars. Pirates were only allowed to have women on board if they were married to them - but some of the men has as many as 5 wives.

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It would seem that from the Admiralty view and the common theme of Naval or ground force commanders, the leadership would use anything but the truth for an excuse for getting rid of the women. You really don't expect the Admiralty to admit their seamen aren't absolutely disciplined now do ya? ;) I wouldn't think that an official report would read; "our men are out of control, and fighting daily over the attention of the women, and the women are getting all the pay and extra rations of drink in exchange for favors." Wouldn't look good in the Court of the King/Queen, and speaks low of the ability of the commanders. No loyal Briton would ever admit of inability to keep order among his troops or sailors. :o:D

Bo

Quite the opposite! Admiralty correspondence is full of complaints about the unruliness of seamen.

Well then I stand corrected. (but I'll bet they still won't pull over and ask for directions!!! :( )

Bo

Edited by Capt. Bo of the WTF co.

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Well then I stand corrected. (but I'll bet they still won't pull over and ask for directions!!! :lol: )

I suspect that half the time complaints about unruly seamen were an officer's insurance against FUBARs. :D

On the day the Mary Rose sank, for example, pretty much the last recorded statement of Vice-Admiral Carew was a complaint about his ungovernable crew...

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Ed, let's not forget Grania Mhaille ("Grace" O'Malley), the Irish thorn in good Queen Bess' side. We know she was real because there are English accounts of her petitioning Elizabeth I for the right to raid enemy (read: Spanish) ships off the Irish coast. The problem is that she'd sometimes raid English ships too if the pickings were slim. So Bess kept having to call her in and lock her up and teach her a lesson.

There are some tales (mostly from Morgan Llywellen's novels) that indicate she dressed as a man, but nothing in the real historical record (or even the Irish legends about her) indicate that she didn't dress as a woman. She was the owner of her ship and that doesn't even confirm that she sailed on it herself, quite frankly.

The fact that Grania gets protrayed as a breeches-wearing pirate at Ren Faires should not be mistaken for fact...

Patrick, to add to your argument from a time period closer to the GAoP, there are numerous well-documented accounts of women fighting in the American Revolution -- at first dressed as young boys and then openly dressed as women. The Continental Line was just too short of man-power to refuse "women-power". And there are even cases of women drawing veterans' pensions from the government -- not as widows, but as veterans themselves.

Now, that being said, America had a tradition by that point of not exactly behaving as England would have. So we must ask ourselves if women did this in England in the GAoP.

My take is that there probably were cases of women dressing as men and making their way aboard pirate ships. But we probably know about the few cases because they were so very rare and unusual.

And anyway, who on earth would want to wear breeches and look like a boy when you could wear fabulous girl clothes?!?! laugh.gif

KassandMerrick.jpg

If we can go back a bit further, Queen Bhudica of the Celts, after the death of her husband, rallied the Celts against the Romans and were quite sucsessful for a brief time. Her daughters led beside her. The Romans forces were reenforced, of course, bringing the conquoring of the Celts but for a while they stood against the tyranny of Rome.

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they stood against the tyranny of Rome.

(spit-take)

The what...???

;)

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LOL :P;)

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they stood against the tyranny of Rome.

(spit-take)

The what...???

biggrin.gif

Perhaps I should rephrase. They fought to the Death because they weren't very nice neighbors.

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As it applies to women aboard ships. In the History of American Whaling, the average voyage was four years. Some of the Captains were Ship Owners or Major Shareholders. As a result some chose to bring their wives and in some cases, their families. Accomodations "abaft the mast" were quite fine for the Capt. In the case of the "C.W. Morgan", the Shiip's Carpenter built a small cabin on deck to fit a bunk for the Mrs. to have better ventelation in the warmer climes.

In the histories of many of these women their importance on these ships became more pronounced. In one incidence, the Capt.'s wife became the ship's Navigator. The Capt. yielded this task because his wife was a more accurate Celestial Navigator. Tragically, the Captain died, mid-Pacific. The Officers all agreed, the Command should be passed to the Captain's Wife should she agree to take it. She completed the voyage with Oil, Baleen and Bone enough to turn a tidy profit for the Company. Bad Luck? I'd say no, well maybe for the Captain.

Also of note. The average crew member, before the mast, for his toil, backbreaking work and danger of angering creatures of 20 ton or more would receive a surprpising sum at the end of the voyage. The pay was called a Lay. The so many hundredeth of the whole. This amount then less the advance for any shore leave. This was rare for the conditions were so harsh many would abandon the ship. The Slop Chest always took a big hit also. This was clothing and other sundries a sailor may need during this period. It was purchase cheap and sold dear by the Captain. The average net pay at the end of an average voyage was $4.00! Four dollars! Although, you were fed. Rotten Salt Horse, Weavely Bread and stale water!

Edited by capn'rob

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Party Barge on land ;-}

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"How Can A Woman Hide Herself on a Cramped Ship" argument:

in reference to a period, one must remember that it is possible to just stop having one due to malnutrition. However, in the case of Mary Read having this issue and going undetected, this dismenorheah ( I believe that's the term) relates to infertility, which she obviously didn't have according to Johnson. I'm no nutritionist, but it seems that the poor diet may have related to a less noticeable period. I mean, besides the "peeing off the boat" and such, can you really tell when she's on her period? And you gotta remember: how many times a day are these gals changing clothes? Not often, and once the bosom is bound and the hips stop swaying noticeably, it becomes more feasible for us chicks to disguise ourselves. A little grease, bound raggedy hair, and you're set.

While clothing has always delineated the sexes, we must remember that sexual division of labor as relating to society became far more pronounced in the Victorian era, and in reference to cross-dressing especially, it wasn't so much frowned upon in the eras leading up to the GAoP. Brush up your Shakespeare, folks: Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and the stage culture of the day all had women playing boys, men playing women, and so on. As it developed in the Victorian period, this era is not quite so concerned with moral issues of gender, homosexuality, etc. That is not to say that it was openly practiced, but it was accepted that gender was a possible play-thing in some arenas.

The only moment I would think would be awkward would be use of the "head" while it was still geographically "a head" on the boat.

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"How Can A Woman Hide Herself on a Cramped Ship" argument:

in reference to a period, one must remember that it is possible to just stop having one due to malnutrition. However, in the case of Mary Read having this issue and going undetected, this dismenorheah ( I believe that's the term) relates to infertility, which she obviously didn't have according to Johnson. I'm no nutritionist, but it seems that the poor diet may have related to a less noticeable period. I mean, besides the "peeing off the boat" and such, can you really tell when she's on her period? And you gotta remember: how many times a day are these gals changing clothes? Not often, and once the bosom is bound and the hips stop swaying noticeably, it becomes more feasible for us chicks to disguise ourselves. A little grease, bound raggedy hair, and you're set.

While clothing has always delineated the sexes, we must remember that sexual division of labor as relating to society became far more pronounced in the Victorian era, and in reference to cross-dressing especially, it wasn't so much frowned upon in the eras leading up to the GAoP. Brush up your Shakespeare, folks: Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and the stage culture of the day all had women playing boys, men playing women, and so on. As it developed in the Victorian period, this era is not quite so concerned with moral issues of gender, homosexuality, etc. That is not to say that it was openly practiced, but it was accepted that gender was a possible play-thing in some arenas.

The only moment I would think would be awkward would be use of the "head" while it was still geographically "a head" on the boat.

I'm sure I've said this before elsewhere, but Mary Read (and indeed Anne Bonny) were never actually disguised as men - despite what just about every author since Charles Johnson has claimed - they simply wore men's clothes in battle because they were more practical.

One woman who did disguise herself and whose name escapes me at present used a horn covered in leather to solve the "head" problem.

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True, I'm just making the anatomical argument for the "women who went undetected" argument.

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