In the history of maritime life and sailing, men seem to play the most important role. But this does not mean that women have not been part of the rich history of sailing and exploration of the seas. On a mission, or just out of pure joy, women have basically always been present on the deck of a vessel.
During the sailing ship era, women were officially forbidden to be part of this world, but some women dared to disguise themselves as men, took a fake name and went on board for the big adventure.
There were many women aspiring to be part of the life at sea, but only the ones married with an important member of the crew, such as the captain (being the daughter of the captain was also an exception) would have been granted a place on board. Women allowed on board would be introduced into the art of navigation, at a specialized school, or directly be instructed by the officers of the crew. Some captains even allowed their wives to assist them in the process of running the ship.
Even with the status of being a relative of the captain, the women were not always allowed to take part in the work with the sailors or explore the whole vessel.
After the 19th century, the status of women aboard was changed. Due to economical necessities and the outcome of the simple role as wives or mothers, women were allowed to help with the duties of a sailor.
The story of Mrs. Thorrold, the wife of captain Charles Thorrold and mother of five, remains famous: she had to become the captain of their ship, Ethel and Marion, after her husband died from blood poisoning. This story made it to the San Francisco Call newspaper. The women related how she had to apply for a tugboat master’s license in order to be legally allowed to do what she already was competent to do.