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Iron Men, Wooden Women

, 304 pages

11 b&w illus.

April 1996



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Iron Men, Wooden Women

Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World, 1700-1920

From the voyage of the Argonauts to the Tailhook scandal, seafaring has long been one of the most glaringly male-dominated occupations. In this groundbreaking interdisciplinary study, Margaret Creighton, Lisa Norling, and their co-authors explore the relationship of gender and seafaring in the Anglo-American age of sail. Drawing on a wide range of American and British sources—from diaries, logbooks, and account ledgers to songs, poetry, fiction, and a range of public sources—the authors show how popular fascination with seafaring and the sailors' rigorous, male-only life led to models of gender behavior based on "iron men" aboard ship and "stoic women" ashore.

Yet Iron Men, Wooden Women also offers new material that defies conventional views. The authors investigate such topics as women in the American whaling industry and the role of the captain's wife aboard ship. They explore the careers of the female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read, as well as those of other women—"transvestite heroines"—who dressed as men to serve on the crews of sailing ships. And they explore the importance of gender and its connection to race for African American and other seamen in both the American and the British merchant marine. Contributors include both social historians and literary critics: Marcus Rediker, Dianne Dugaw, Ruth Wallis Herndon, Haskell Springer, W. Jeffrey Bolster, Laura Tabili, Lillian Nayder, and Melody Graulich, in addition to Margaret Creighton and Lisa Norling.

Margaret S. Creighton teaches history at Bates College. Lisa Norling teaches history at the University of Minnesota.

"Its impact on traditional (and erroneous) ideas of roles of male and female in relation to seafaring is a stirring one."

"This collection not only sketches life at sea in all its detail and diversity but also expands our understanding of the connections of gender, occupation, class, colonization, and race at sea and on land in the nineteenth century. The book combines first-rate scholarship with lively, accessible writing—no small accomplishment!"