Lisa Norling



Occupation 1

maritime historian/women's historian

Occupation 2

professor at U. Minnesota


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Maritime Nation Since 1950 (1951-present)




My scholarship is located at the intersection between maritime history and women's history. As U.S. history appropriately incorporates international and comparative perspectives, we are beginning to recognize the significance of the sailors and ships that linked America and the rest of the world for centuries. But just a few historians have noticed that only men worked at sea -- one of the most strictly sex-based divisions of labor known in human history -- or explored the underlying assumptions about masculinity and femininity pervading maritime culture. The anthology I co-edited, Iron Men, Wooden Women, introduced this new scholarship and demonstrated its power to illuminate the history of gender as well as of seafaring. My forthcoming book, Captain Ahab Had a Wife, examines gender dynamics in the American whaling industry from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The book describes the functional interdependence of maritime men's and women's work and situates this within the ideological interdependence of masculine and feminine gender roles. My findings show how the dramatic growth of the industry and the restructuring of life at sea and onshore both reflected and reinforced evolving concepts about sexual difference, love, and marriage.

Related Images


Related Sources

Captain Ahab Had a Wife: New England Women and the Whalefishery, 1720-1870
Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in the Atlantic World. 1700-1920