Women in Maritime History!

Egan Maritime

Women in Maritime History

This month in Maritime History post is a little different than usual. Instead of just one story, we thought we would bring a story from each staff member. For Women's History Month, we asked each staff member to share their favorite female in Maritime history. It was fun to learn about different historical figures. We hope you enjoy reading along!


Cole Brauer

Cole Brauer selected by Carlisle Barron Jensen

Cole just finished second in the inaugural Global Solo Challenge, a solo sailing race that will have sailors circumnavigating the globe.
Cole is the race's only female skipper (and youngest!). When Cole crossed the finish line in Spain, she made history as the first American woman to sail solo nonstop around the world! "

Carlisle is a huge fan of Cole, not only for her incredible sailing abilities but because of her attitude and her... Instagram. Brauer has been documenting her progress through chipper, unflappable videos that offer an honest look into the ups and downs of racing solo. As a non-sailor, Carlisle has loved learning through her adventures and getting to cheer her on along the way.


lwilda the Female Pirate

lwilda the Female Pirate selected by Tony Dumitru

Alwilda was a Scandinavian princess in the 5th century. Her father arranged a marriage for her to Alf, the crown prince of Denmark, but Alwilda refused. To avoid this arranged marriage, together with some female friends, she decided to dress like a sailor and take command of a ship. While sailing, Alwilda’s ship encountered a pirate ship that had recently lost its captain, and the pirates elected her to be their captain.
The prince of Denmark sent his son Alf to fight against the pirates. Alf’s courage impressed Alwilda and made her reveal her real identity. They married onboard the pirate ship and lived happily as King and Queen of Denmark.

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Jeanne Baret

Jeanne Baret selected by Renee Ceely

Jeanne Baret was born July 27, 1740, in the Burgandy region of France and lived 67 years. Little is known of her early background but later enlisted as valet and assistant to a French naturalist called Philibert Commerson. Commerson was invited to join Captain Louis Antoine de Bougainville’s three-year scientific expedition around the world on the ships La Boudeuse and Etoile in 1766-1769. Due to Commerson’s poor health, Jeanne Baret joined the expedition as his nurse and assistant but had to disguise herself as a man because women were strictly prohibited on naval ships at the time.

Baret was herself an expert botanist, so the secret arrangement had its benefits, allowing her to do much of the physical work of collecting and discovering new species of plants. Baret had done well to conceal her identity for so long, but once her true identity was discovered, it produced a dilemma for Captain Bougainville because of the strict orders prohibiting women on board. She was allowed to continue her role as botanist and valuable member of the expedition but later left on the French Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean to continue studying the island's wildlife with Commerson before returning to France.
This arrangement relieved Captain Bougainville as it solved the problem of his returning home with a woman illegally onboard. With high hopes that the voyage would achieve much, the expedition’s unexpected and primary accomplishment was having onboard the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, which she did via maritime transport.


Ida Lewis

Ida Lewis selected by Chuck Allard.

Contemporaries describe Ida Lewis(1842-1911) as the "bravest woman in America. She was only one of many women who served US Coast Guard duties from 1776. Famous for her courage and skill in rescuing people from the sea, which, after all, was not the principal responsibility of light keepers, she saved at least 18 mariners. She was born in Newport, Rhode Island, and in 1857 moved to Lime Rock Island, where her father kept the lighthouse. After he suffered a stroke, she and her mother took over his responsibilities. By 1879, Ida was officially appointed the Keeper. She was the first woman to receive a gold Congressional medal for lifesaving and, according to some records, also the first woman recipient of the American Cross of Honor.

And let us not forget Nantucket's Mary Easton, the official Keeper of the Cliff Range Lights, better known as the Bug Lights, after her husband passed.

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Gloria Hollister

Gloria Hollister selected by Kara Falck!

Gloria Hollister was a marine scientist and an ocean explorer. She made record dives off the coast of Bermuda in an underwater vehicle called the Bathysphere. In June of 1930, Hollister successfully completed a 410ft dive, which was a world record for the deepest dive completed by a woman. In 1934, Hollister broke her own record by reaching depths of around 1,208 ft, again making her the only woman in the world recorded to have explored the deep ocean in a submersible. Her record dive of 1,208 ft would be held for 30 years. Hollister's efforts would pave the way for other women scientists to explore the deep sea and discover new species.

Fun Fact: In her record-breaking dive in 1934, Hollister brought with her a flag from the Society of Women Geographers. Other prominent members of this society included Amelia Earhart."