Posted by: Karlee A. Turner | January 31, 2013

31st January

Mary Brewster (1848), Mary Lawrence (1859) and Eliza Williams (1861) did not make any journal entries for this date in their respective years.  Alternatively, I have included the photos of three other women and highlighted a few episodes of their sea adventures. They are pictured in chronological order (of when they lived at sea).

A brief summary of a few other 19th century whaling captain’s wives:

During the much of the 19th century (and a few early decades of the 20th century), over 200 women sailed the seven seas aboard whaling and merchant vessels mastered by their husbands. Mary Brewster, Mary Lawrence, and Eliza Williams are only three of those women. Each and every woman who braved such conditions for years on end had both similar and varied experiences. However, there is ONE thing they had in common: they were ordinary women who lived extraordinary lives.

Below, are the photos of three other women, all from New England and primarily from CT and MA.

1.  Caroline Mayhew (below); wife of Captain William Mayhew lived at sea from 1834 – 1849 on board the Warren (1834; Warren, RI), Luminary (1837; Swansea, MA), and Powhatan (1846; Warren, RI). Caroline was one of the earliest New England wives to go to sea. When originally conducting my research several years ago, I could only find two other American women who went to sea before Caroline; Mrs. Gardner (no first name or husband’s name available) in 1821, and Mrs. Carles Spooner in 1832. During Caroline’s first voyage rounding Capr Horn, she later said: “During the storm, we made twenty knots, ten straight ahead and ten up and down.”  Over the years Caroline visited and spent quite a bit of time at New Zealand and the Cape Verdes islands.

Caroline Mayhew 

2.  Mary Carlin Cleaveland (below); wife of Captain James F. Cleaveland lived at sea on board the Mary Wilder from 1851 – 1852 and the Seconet from 1855 – 1860.  Mary was originally from Australia. At sixteen, she met and married her husband in Honolulu during a stop-over to San Francisco to live with her sister. Unlike Caroline, Mary’s first whaling voyage lasted only a few months – that was from San Francisco to New Bedford, as her husband was on his way home when they were married. In 1855, nearing twenty, Mary returned to sea aboard the Seconet. While living on board, Mary prepared for the birth of her first child (named Alvita), a girl, born at Talcahuano, Chile. Her second child, also a daughter (named Henrietta) was born in 1858 while Mary stayed with friends at St. Paita. After nearly being absent from New Bedford for five years, the Cleaveland’s home upon the sea arrived at New Bedford on July 28, 1860. Mary’s third daughter and child was born and named Mary Wilder. With that, Mary settled into a real home on land, suited to the family of a successful whaling captain and decided she had had enought of living at sea and never sailed again.


Mary Carlin

3.  Charlotte Corday Dunham Jernegen (below); wife of Captain Nathan M. Jernegen lived at sea on board the Niger from 1856 – 1860. Originally a teacher at Martha’sVineyard, MA she was married July 2, 1852.  Just three months into her marriage, her husband set out on his first voyage as captain without his new wife. While he was away on his first voyage, she gave birth to their first child, a boy, who sadly died four months later before his father returned.   When her husband returned from his first voyage, she decided that next time she would accompany her husband to sea. While at sea during her first voyage, she became pregnant a second time. As she neared her confinement, her husband, as had manycaptains and husbands before, left her at Talcahuano, Chile. Her baby, another boy, arrived January 9, 1858. At just five weeks, she was ready to be back at sea, but the ship didn’t arrive until April 13.  Their voyage ended August 14, 1860 – four years after they had left New Bedford. Unfortunately for Charlotte, a fashionista; learned when they arrived at New Bedford, that enourmous-brimmed bonnets and hoopskirts had gone out of fashion. Embarrased by her obsolete fashion, while riding in the carriage to the hotel, she quickly and expertly removed her hoops, abandoned them and hung her bonnet over her arm.  Minus the huge hoops beneath her skirt, it dragged on the ground and she nearly tripped as she reached the passage of Parker House.

Charlotte Corday Dunham Jernegen


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