Female Tars

Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail

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Overview

“For a very long time now I have delighted in histories, letters, records, and memoirs to do with the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century; but Suzanne Stark’s book has told me many, many things I did not know, and I shall keep it on an honored shelf.”—Patrick O’Brian

The wives and female guests of commissioned officers often went to sea in the sailing ships of Britain’s Royal Navy in the 18th and 19th centuries, but there were other women on board as well, rarely mentioned in print. Suzanne Stark thoroughly investigates the custom of allowing prostitutes to live with the crews of warships in port. She provides some judicious answers to questions about what led so many women to such an appalling fate and why the Royal Navy unofficially condoned the practice. She also offers some revealing firsthand accounts of the wives of warrant officers and seamen who spent years at sea living—and fighting—beside their men without pay or even food rations, and of the women in male disguise who served as seamen or marines.

Now available in paperback, this lively history draws on primary sources and so gives an authentic view of life on board the ships of Britain’s old sailing navy and the social context of the period that served to limit roles open to lower-class women.

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

"Despite its age, Female Tars remains an interesting and insightful work about a still little known aspect of life at sea, a subject needing more research." —Strategy Page
"Female Tars is well-written, and accessible to both academic and casual readers. This study expands our understanding of life aboard Royal Navy warships during the age of sail. In doing so it brings into context the social and economic situations women faced during the long eighteenth century with the wartime pressures faced by the Royal Navy to keep warships manned. The Naval Institute Press should be commended to bring such an important work back into print." —Naval Historical Foundation
"Stark masterfully disentangles the myths and facts about women of the lower deck of warships. She also enlightens us as to why they chose this harsh life. Finally and perhaps most importantly, she illuminates the social context of these lower-class women and the limited roles open to them. Female Tars is an invaluable addition to any collection dealing with the Royal Navy, women at sea, women's history, and life during the Age of Sail." —Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracyand Goodreads
"For a very long time now I have delighted in histories, letters, records, and memoirs to do with the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century; but Suzanne Stark's book has told me many, many things I did not know, and I shall keep it on an honored shelf."—Patrick O'Brian
“Stark has successfully provided us with a rich glimpse into a fascinating era and this material is presented in an engaging manner. This book has wide appeal for anyone with an interest in marine history and/or gender studies.” —The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord