‘From Cabin “Boys” to Captains: 250 years of Women at Sea’ book launched to mark Shieldhall’s first cruise of 2016


Steamship Shieldhall, Southampton’s hidden heritage asset, commenced its sailing programme for 2016 on Saturday 4 June with a 2-hour morning cruise of the Southampton Docks, followed by an afternoon cruise down Southampton Water.

In between the two cruises, Shieldhall welcomed author Dr Jo Stanley aboard, for a launch of her book ‘From Cabin “Boys” to Captains: 250 years of Women at Sea’. Tracing the progress that women have made in seafaring jobs through the centuries, Jo Stanley recounts the stories of dancers, purserettes, doctors, stewardesses, captains and conductresses, all of whom have taken to the waves on everything from floating palaces to battered windjammers. Their daring story is barely known, even by today’s seawomen. Many of those veteran pioneers were on board to celebrate.

In keeping with the theme of the day, Shieldhall’s Captain for the two cruises was Clare Holmes.


Jo said: “Clare Holmes is a great example of how seafaring women have made it to the top, despite the obstacles.”

“My Liverpudlian great grandad, a ship’s barber, sailed out of Southampton (and lived for a while in Shirley), so this almost feels like home. And I’ve sailed into this berth on a tall ship recently. Women climbing aloft could be best be understood by going up the mast myself, I thought. So I did. No, I wasn’t scared but my knees certainly showed me that it’s a young person’s job!”

Shieldhall Marketing Director Nigel Philpott said: “Jo’s book is a fascinating read; a lively compendium of stories and interviews with female pioneers in both the Merchant Navy and Royal Navy. Jo also has some interesting ideas for helping more women go to sea, some of which are controversial!”