Monday, December 14, 2009

Down on Deck

In the past I have claimed that this image or that image was my favorite in the Annapolis Heritage Society's archival collection. Well, we can safely add today's image to my ever growing list of favorite images. What I like about this particular image is an element which is almost hidden unless you look very carefully. Go on, take a look and see if you can locate the hidden element which makes this a wonderfully intriguing image. By all respects this looks like a fairly standard deck of a ship in the late 1890s. You can find it just to the left of the dory and the main mast. Unless you look carefully it, or more precisely she, can still be difficult to see.

Once you clear away the clutter of the rest of the image, you can clearly see her standing there holding a rope. A jaunty hat on her head appears to have a couple of plumes for decoration. Her hooped skirt looks decidedly more geared to entertaining the pastor and his wife than it does to be standing around on deck. All this aside, there she is.

What I really like about this image is that it plays against stereotype. Most discussions of the Age of Sail are about the wooden ships and iron men. As this image shows, women also had a place (although not a common one) in the Age of Sail. Most of the women who went to sea were the wives or daughters of the Captain and crew of a vessel. This was often an attempt to help keep a family together rather than suffer through the extended absences of a life at sea. Lucretia Delap (Croscup) of Granville Ferry recorded several trips she made with her husband to the Caribbean. Others like Elizabeth Pritchard Hall of Granville Ferry were even called upon to navigate the ship after Captain and crew fell sick with small pox. Of course, there are stories of women from less noble callings making their way to sea as well. From the attire of the woman in this photograph, I will assume that this was not her story.

All for now,
RGS

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