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Hen Frigates: Passion and Peril, Nineteenth-Century Women at Sea

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3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  127 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
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 wit ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 4th 1999 by Simon & Schuster (first published June 3rd 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Carol
Very Good – non-fiction

The Hook 2106 Reading Plan – bookWOMEN: A Readers’ Community For Those Who Love Women’s Words, Vol 6, No.5, June-July 2002,“My Journal, my life” by Linda Beall, pg. 8-9.
In this article Beall talks about the benefits of reading and writing journals and how we all have stories to tell. Hen Frigates offers stories of women who follow their husbands to unknown places on sailing vessels in the name of love.

The Line ”In Brisbane, Australia, a cockroach came on board that was so
...more
Shayne
Dec 21, 2010 Shayne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ever since making the acquaintance of Mrs Croft in Persuasion, I've been intrigued by the idea of a woman living in such a thoroughly male environment as a naval ship, at a time when the spheres of men and women were far more strictly defined than today. So I was drawn to this account of captains' wives on sailing ships in the 19th century. It covers a period a little later than Mrs Croft's, and these were commercial vessels rather than naval, but conditions must have been similar in many ways.

H
...more
Kathrine Holyoak
I am, admittedly, a family history freak! Now even my reading choices are affected by my roots. This winter we have uncovered an AMAZING story in our family tree- an ancestor, Louisa Price, who sailed with her Captain husband, John James Price, on a "merchant" ship in the mid 1800's out of England. Louisa gave birth multiple times on board the ship- the Sorata. Their oldest daughter, Lilian, has the middle name of the ship (Sorata). Louisa had 6 children. When Louisa was 34, the family set sail ...more
Alice
Jun 01, 2014 Alice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to read women's stories throughout history. Princesses Behaving Badly told of women who should've been famous for their status, but who were often forgotten after the gossip died down. They Fought Like Demons tells of women who dressed up as men to fight in the American Civil War. Sea Queens is a YA take on lady pirates. Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is an intimate look into a Victorian lady's private life. I picked up Hen Frigates on a recommendation that it would be along those lines.

And it
...more
Cynthia Davidson
Dec 04, 2012 Cynthia Davidson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pi-book-club
This was a great find by one of our book club members. Although Hurricane Sandy interfered with our meeting date, which had to be rescheduled, the rough weather gave us even greater admiration for these women we read about, living aboard ship(s) in the 1880's.

The full sailed schooners and clippers carried along more wives and daughters than I'd ever imagined before reading this compilation of their journal entries, letters home and other 'evidence' of their brave travels. Many didn't make it bac
...more
skein
Apr 23, 2016 skein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 4-star, 2016
A delight. The book opens with a ghost story, or an ancestor-story: Druett falls into the grave of a sailing lady, recently reopened by a man acting in obedience to a dream of his ancestor. i love ghost stories and ocean-stories and i am quite fond of Druett as well; i want her eloquence & dry wit at my dinner parties.

An entire chapter on sex ("Sex and the Seafaring Wife"), which notes that marital relations must be difficult at sea due to the tossing of the ship in the waves ("opportunity
...more
Donna Jo Atwood
When we think of Victorian women, we do not often immediately think in terms of adventure, but there were a number of women--the wives of captains of the great sailing ships--who rather matter of factly sailed with the their husbands.
Druett has condensed these lives into a very readable account of what sailing, often as the only woman on board, meant in terms of liveability. I had already read book length accounts of two of these women (Susan Hathorn and Mary Ann Patten), but Hen Frigates opened
...more
Cissy
Oct 29, 2012 Cissy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joan Druett has compiled an amazing collection information about 19th century women, who took a leap of faith and went to sea with their ship captain husbands. Rather than remain at home alone with their children, these women risked it all to be near the men they loved, and trusted with their lives, and the lives of their children. Giving birth to children, raising children, surviving storms, illness, accidents, deaths, burials, and living at sea for years, are just a few of the challenges these ...more
Lissa Notreallywolf
This was a great book, and I suspect the author of the Mary Celeste used it as a reference. Druett's husband is a maritime illustrator so she uses his art to advantage. Apparently one of his fellowships led her to discover the diaries of seagoing women on a New England assignment. The book is written in a meeting of minds fashion, so the women's stories are not told in cameo, but rather in conversation. She has a great transitional gift in her writing. I enjoyed the fictional Mary Celeste novel ...more
Alan
Jun 22, 2012 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is gobs information available about what it was like to live a life at sea...if you were a man. But did women live lives at sea too? Some did.

In this interesting and in many ways comprehensive book, Druett uncovers what it was like for women to go to sea in "Hen Frigates". That is, merchant ships where captains took their wives and families to sea.

Druett does an admirable job of outlining what it was like for the new bride, the young mother, the mother separated from either her husband or
...more
Jeanine Lent
Dec 15, 2016 Jeanine Lent rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a fantastic book about women who lived at sea, with their husbands. I first thought this might be a bit dry, but it was anything but dry. Each chapter was about a different topic, such as marriage, having children, etc. I learned about many well-known women who married men & went to sea. Some women could not make it & returned home as quickly as possible. Others made a good, albeit difficult, life for themselves, their husbands & children. Journals were a good source of infor ...more
Hayley Stone
Sep 18, 2014 Hayley Stone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely well-researched, informative, and entertaining. Furthermore, the appendix at the end is proof of Druett's love of the subject and compassion toward other historians interested in these 19th century women as she provides a comprehensive list of sources to investigate. Wonderful book for anyone interested in sailing wives and their children.
Francie
Feb 04, 2010 Francie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful look at the wives of Sea Captains who chose to sail with their husbands (very much a minority choice as women on board a sailing ship were considered bad luck). It was very well written, relying heavily on the words of the women themselves from journals and letters. I love to learn of history from the words of those who actually experienced it.
Jenny Brown
Aug 09, 2011 Jenny Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taken from the memoirs and diaries of women who sailed with merchant captains from the 1830s through the first decade of the 20th century, this book provides a wealth of detail about the role women played at sea--one I'd never before heard about.

Well worth reading for anyone interested in women's lives in the 19th century.
Heidi
Jul 21, 2009 Heidi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best books I've ever read! They really should make this one into a movie somehow. I never knew there were women aboard sailing vessels. And whole families! I was not only entertained, but I learned a lot from this book.
Pancha
Nov 28, 2008 Pancha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
This was an excellent book, combining the author's wonderful research with excerpts from journals and letters written by the "sister sailors" themselves. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in nautical and/or women's history.
D. Soares
Jun 09, 2009 D. Soares rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well done! I totally enjoyed it
Paul
Dec 15, 2010 Paul rated it liked it
I have read a great deal about sailing in the 18th and 19th century but had never heard of women on board. Very interesting, well researched.
Linda
Apr 20, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed all the details of female life aboard the sailing
ships in the 1800s. I'm sure they felt like they were on the cutting
edge of technology!
Lizzie
Jun 12, 2008 Lizzie rated it liked it
About women who went to sea with their sea captain husbands, taken from contemporary diaries. Fairly boring.
Dawn Paris
Lots of interesting details of life at sea for several captains' wives, drawn from their journals and letters. Organized thematically.
Marie Demicco
Feb 02, 2013 Marie Demicco is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Stories of 19th century sea captains' wives who went to sea with their husbands. I guess I just love reading other peoples' diaries!
Megan
Aug 06, 2008 Megan rated it really liked it
(Back to?) September 2, 2006
Barbara
Dec 02, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
Well-organized and researched.
Jennifer Bergman
Jennifer Bergman rated it it was ok
Jun 07, 2009
Jessica Ploetz
Jessica Ploetz rated it it was amazing
Oct 16, 2013
Kimberly
Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Mar 23, 2016
Emily
Emily rated it liked it
Feb 02, 2010
Sara
Sara rated it liked it
Aug 18, 2008
Nap381
Nap381 rated it liked it
Apr 22, 2017
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Back in the year 1984, on the picture-poster tropical island of Rarotonga, I literally fell into whaling history when I tumbled into a grave. A great tree had been felled by a recent hurricane, exposing a gravestone that had been hidden for more than one and a half centuries. It was the memorial to a young whaling wife, who had sailed with her husband on the New Bedford ship Harrison in the year 1 ...more
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