Joan Druett  Sea tales and Maritime History

Joan Druett

She Captains : Heroines and Hellions of the Sea by Joan Druett, Jooan Druett Mention the word "pirate," and you'll likely conjure up an image, courtesy of Robert Newton's scenery-chewing performance in the 1950 film adaptation of Treasure Island, that features a peg-leg, a parrot, and a mighty "arrrgh."

New Zealand-based maritime historian Joan Druett amends that image to include voices in a higher register, adding She Captains to other works (Hen Frigates, "She Was a Sister Sailor") that address women's roles in the passage and exploration of the high seas. Druett reaches far back in history, opening her lively book with an account of the water-coursing Massegetae queen Tomyris, who bested the Persian king Cyrus on the shores of the Volga River. Druett enlists dozens of other militarily, criminally, and commercially extraordinary women in her dramatis personae, including the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra, whose name is synonymous with mysterious beauty but who also commanded a mighty navy; Cheng I Sao, the 18th-century terror of the South China Sea; and Lucy Brewer, who, disguised as a man, served as a common sailor aboard the U.S.S. Constitution. Along the way Druett considers the role of New England women as financial mainstays of the whaling trade, stops at Spanish ports of call controlled by powerful (and sometimes bloodthirsty) women, and generally has a fine time exploring waters that history has little charted. --Gregory McNamee

Hen Frigates : Passion and Peril, Nineteenth Century Women at Sea by Joan Druett (Paperback - May 1999) A "hen frigate," traditionally, was any ship with the captain's wife on board. Hen frigates were miniature worlds -- wildly colorful, romantic, and dangerous. Here are the dramatic, true stories of what the remarkable women on board these vessels encountered on their often amazing voyages: romantic moonlit nights on deck, debilitating seasickness, terrifying skirmishes with pirates, disease-bearing rats, and cockroaches as big as a man's slipper. And all of that while living with the constant fear of gales, hurricanes, typhoons, collisions, and fire at sea. Interweaving first-person accounts from letters and journals in and around the lyrical narrative of a sea journey, maritime historian Joan Druett brings life to these stories. We can almost feel for ourselves the fear, pain, anger, love, and heartbreak of these courageous women. Lavishly illustrated, this breathtaking book transports us to the golden age of sail.

Hen Frigates : Wives of Merchant Captains Under Sail by Joan Druett (Hardcover - June 1998)

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