Women at sea: Introduction Women at sea: Reading list Email me

Women and the sea

There are at least five women in the world who are leading experts on women's maritime history. I'm proud to be one of them.

My two best known books are about women pirates from 480BC until today, and about gay stewards on passenger ships 1940–90 (Hello Sailor!, which I co-authored with Paul Baker).

I'm currently working on Risk: Women on the wartime seas. The book looks at Wrens, nurses on hospital ships, passengers, evacuee mums, suffragettes, missionaries, journalists, actresses and female crew in the First World War and the Second World War. It also takes a topical look at women at risk in today’s navy. It will be heavily illustrated and will be published by Yale University Press.

Follow the menu on the left for a beginner's list of books and papers on specific areas of interests and women's occupational roles.

They include gender and seafaring; cargo vessels; passenger ships; whalers; royal navies, piracy; fishing; docks and ports; women as sailing wives of masters; women as passengers; inland waterways; sailing vessels and small boats; mermaids, sirens and ondines; and more general texts.


Hello Sailor! Gay Life
on the Ocean Wave

My top three films on women and the sea

In Fading Light
Directed by the Amber Team, Amber Films, Newcastle, 1989

The stark film starring Joanna Ripley feels like a documentary, and tells a convincing story about a woman who works on her father's fishing boat.

Now Voyager
Directed by Irving Rapper, MGM, 1942.
This film epitomises the classic configuration of voyage as a time of social and psychic transition. The sea/ship allows' this change in Bette Davis' character.

Cutthroat Island
Directed by Renny Harlin, Cutthroat Productions, 1995.
I do not believe that women pirates were stylish swashbuckling heroines, but Geena Davis stars in a film that sums up – hilariously –all the stereotypical fantasies about a 17th century pirate in Jamaica who dares all for love and lucre.