Women at Sea, Cont.

Whaling wives brought a new perspective to a traditionally male dominated environment. Here they delivered babies, raised their families and brought homelife to the main cabin as well as to the small "houses" erected for them on deck. School lessons, sewing and other handiwork projects, reading, and other "womanly" activities took place in those little deck cabins.

Even though these women were usually fairly isolated from the crew, at least from a distance they gave the men a glimpse into family life. Their children offered distraction from the boredom of shipboard routine.

Pets like parrots, pigeons, parakeets, kittens and dogs provided families companionship. One ship had a gray eagle take up residence. Eliza Williams had a pair of canaries given to her during a gam. The Maoris in New Zealand once gave Caroline Mayhew a wallaby, which made several voyages before dying at her home back on Martha’s Vineyard years later. Livestock like pigs, chickens and sheep kept on board provided entertainment, as well as tears when they were served for dinner.

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Ron Druett