How to find out more about women and the sea
The subject of women and their relationship to the sea has been neglected in wider research given that women have had their own unique experience with the sea as pirates, passengers, in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS), as fishermen's wives, deckhands, marine scientists, shipboard nurses and so on. Now, however, interest and research are growing steadily. To reflect this, the museum has set up various resources to aid research on the topic.
The National Maritime Museum is home to over four and a half miles of manuscript material which is available for consultation in the Library reading room. Some of the items within the collection are held off site so discussion with the curator is advisable before ordering.
Most material relates to the work of the WRNS during World War I and II. They include the HMS Dauntless archive, personal papers, photographs, slides, service documents and correspondence.
Many of the journals and diaries held within the manuscripts collection may also hold relevant information. See the manuscripts catalogue for further information.
The Museum holds copies of charts made by Marie Tharp, who successfully mapped the floor of the world's oceans, making millions of measurements and, in the process, developing the theory of sea floor spreading and continental drift. The collection includes:
The Museum's catalogue lists over 70 titles related to women and the sea (reference 656.61.07.22-055.2). The following are some of the most popular and useful:
In 1910 an advisory committee on merchant shipping proposed to the Board of Trade that a Central Register of Seamen be created. The Central Register (sometimes referred to as the Fourth Register of Seamen) was started in October 1913 and was maintained until 1941. The complete register consists of four large card indexes which will become available on microfiche. Records of particular interest to researchers into women and the sea are:
These include details of all categories of people who went to sea, not only ordinary seaman but mates, engineers, trimmers, cooks and stewards. Only a small proportion refers to women but it reflects the start of their acceptance as seafarers.
This series (fully indexed) consists of confidential editions of the Navy list. They contain information about seniority and disposition lists of all commissioned and warrant officers, including retired and reserve officers in employment, together with yard and civilian officers, WRNS, QARNNS (Queen Alexandra Royal Naval Nursing Service) and other admiralty officials.
This is one of a series of research guides produced by the Museum to help you to explore the collections. For general research help see:
Research guide A2: Principal records for maritime research at the National Maritime Museum
Research guide A3: Tracing family history from maritime records
Although care has been taken in preparing the information contained in this document, anyone using it shall be deemed to indemnify the National Maritime Museum from any and all injury or damage arising from such use.