At Home and At Sea

During her husband's two-year voyage, one shorebound wife, Lydia Almy, expressed that she wanted to contribute more to their household. In addition to her daily rounds of child care and household tasks like carting wood, keeping livestock, whitewashing walls, preserving food and bringing in hay, she brought in extra cash by taking in boarders and tanning animal hides. Not a simple life indeed.

While women were essential to supporting families and sustaining communities on shore, they sometimes expressed frustration with the burden of single parenting. One of the most difficult things about having their men away was loneliness. At the same time, men at sea enjoyed the opportunities for adventure that whaling offered, but pined for their loved ones at home as well.

First Mate Ambrose Bates expressed his dismay in verse. Quoted by Margaret Creighton in American Mariners in June and July 1967 on pages 162-163, it went like this:
"It was morning and I longed for evening.
It was evening and I longed for home.
I was at home and I longed for the sea.
Now whire shall I fly to amuse myself?
But alas, I know of no place
I could combind land and sea together."

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Martha's Vineyard Museum