Hen Frigates

Is there a seafaring wife on board? Ships speaking. Courtesy Ron Druett

A "hen frigate," traditionally, was any ship with the captain's wife on board, and Hen Frigates is the dramatic and largely untold story of the enterprising women who sailed on oceangoing merchant ships throughout the nineteenth century. These vessels were minature worlds--wildly colorful, dangerous, and, most of all, romantic--where voyaging was a strenuous challenge under even the best of conditions. Gales, hurricanes, collisions, and fire at sea, along with mysterious epidemics of exotic diseases, were feared by all on board, but the women had the added burden of childbirth, followed by the challenge of rearing babies and small children in that most unhomelike place, a sailing ship at sea.

“Druett paints a vivid portrait of the unique challenges faced by seafaring females. The breezy narrative provides the reader with an intriguing entrée into an exotic lifestyle choice.”--Booklist.

"Hen Frigates is a remarkable collage of interesting (and sometimes horrifying) stories about hardships a modern woman would find it almost impossible to endure, and displays of courage that astonished me. Strong women have not only recently been liberated, they seem to have been strong and accomplished under the old restrictions imposed upon the sex."
--Doris Grumbach.

Awarded the New York Public Library "Best Book to Remember" prize, 1999.