Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory
Welcome to my website
I'm a creative historian who works with museums, universities and in the community. Women who went to sea - whose travel transformed their lives forever - are my special area of expertise.
My especial interest is in the stories of people who have led marginalised lives in the past - and sought adventure, freedom and the space to be all they are, and might become.
In particular this means recording people, or helping them write their stories. They tend to be people who've taken jobs at sea despite the odds - like women, black and minority ethnic (BAME) and LGBTQI people - for whom seagoing meant sometimes liberation and sometimes injustice.
Ships are hypersexualised spaces for those confined in them. As a cultural historian, that's fascinating to me. They're heterotopias (meaning other places, like Wonderland) and liminal zones, which means they explain a lot about our societies on land.)
I live in Marsden in the Pennines, and work a lot in London and abroad. At Liverpool John Moores University I am Visiting Senior Research Fellow. At the University of Hull's Maritime Historical Studies Centre I am an Honorary Research Fellow.
The latest book that I've contributed to
Women: Our History, Intro by Lucy Worsley, published by Dorling Kindersley, London, 2019. My sections are on adventurers and piracy.
What they say about me
February (dates TBC but certainly Saturday 8th), Devonport Naval Heritage Site and Visitor Centre:
Queer Seas: Looking for LGBTQI people in maritime history. Illustrated outline of 300 years of queer history in the Royal and Merchant Navies.
Wrens in Devonport WW1: In the boss's own words. Exploring the history of Helen Beale, the divisional director WRNS at Devonport from Nov 1918 - Nov 1919
April 28-30. Mapping Your Lifestory. Creative autobiography workshop at Higham Hall. £248.
May 9 (Sat): University of Iceland, Reykjavik. Lost history: Allied women as occupiers in WW2. Illustrating the story of UK and US nurses, Red Cross hospitality workers and entertainers from 1940 -1943.
Anytime - it's online. #MeToo and mar hist: Tackling the silences about women's subjective sexuality in maritime histories, Maritime Toxic Masculinity conference, 29 April 2019 globalmaritimehistory.com/gender-sexuality
What am I doing now?
- Leading as research facilitator at the National Maritime Museum's collaborative community project on women's maritime history
- presenting and co-producing Home from Home, Dover, a film about Helen Beale, a WW1 Wren officer, with Jo Wiser
- creating a Khaki Angel, one-woman play about WW2 Allied servicewomen occupying Iceland, with performer Irene Lofthouse
- Finishing Dangerous Adventures: civilian women save the wartime seas. It's a history book for Yale UP. Publication date tba but hopefully 2020.
- Exploring the history of women stowaways. Yes, hiding yourself on ship was a gendered business - and not glam. Women paid a bigger price than male stowaways, but were probably less likely to be imprisoned on arrival. Provisional title: Not wanted on voyage: women who stowed away 1850-1970.
A centenary history of women in the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. Mini-biographies of women who design ships. I did the preface and the section on its star, Eily Keary. Download it for free from RINA.
Blog items in late 2019:
- 5 Nov. Jamaican woman behind the Navy List
- 31 Oct. 10 FAQs about black women in maritime history.
- 19 Oct. Navy tackles sexual assault: 'banter' and buns
- 10 Oct. The black cook, the cross-dressed wife, and the ship's hot kitchen 1852
- 8 Aug. Girls ranging the seas: Celebrating 100 years
- 1 Aug. New women's maritime award shortlist revealed.
- 10 Jul. Chinese women working with UK ships in 20C
- 8 Jul. Yachts, women and change: Maiden and Tracy Edwards Women design ships