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Victorian Women at Sea ~ A Tale with a Twist

The Mysterious Female Victorian Sailor !
Women sailors are still not exactly widespread today, only recently at sea in submarines etc for the Royal Navy (and yes many did return home pregnant), but how many women sailors were there in the 1800s ?!
That should be enough of a start, but there’s a delicious twist to this one . . . you must read this . . .

I’m, and you too are now, greatly indebted to site stalwart Veronica who came across this wonderful story in an 1870 edition of a Grantham Lincolnshire newspaper.

It seems a vagrant, was found in Horncastle, the place appears full of them still to this day ;) , and brought up before the beak, he was formerly a sailor but was now without berth.
Now, Horncastre knows a thing or two about justice, I rather wonderfully wrote about it before - so, no messing - 2 weeks in gaol without the option !

On arrival at gaol, said Jack Tar was ordered to strip and be sanitized in line with usual rules, Jack Tar refuses!
Warden is called: “Why will you not strip you old sea dog?” he almost certainly didn’t say.
“Because I’m a chick” she almost certainly didn’t reply.

Doctor is called: Doc rummages about for a while and then declares . . . “he’s a she!”
Jack Tar become Jacklyn Tar.


This is a Sailor Girl I found in Louth (near Horncastle) :)

The story was that she had fled an unhappy marriage and been on the run for 12 years fooling all and spending the time at sea as a sailor.
The paper reports that:
When dressed by the matron in appropriate clothes she was refined and presentable and her family were very highly connected.

What a truly remarkable woman, think about what must have been involved, especially a Victorian life at sea !

The question is . . . who was this amazing woman and what more is there to this story.
It’s a wonderful tale and it would be great to find out more, I think we’ll be lucky to do so, but you never know.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this historical farce which is in reality a tale of a remarkable woman and my thanks once again to Veronica for the tip-off

Avast me hearties,


  1. v said,

    December 14, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    When I saw this, I was instantly taken by what I felt was a hilarious, whimsical eccentricity.

    But upon reflection, when my accustomed compassion and understanding set in, I saw a multifaceted story.

    What have we got here? a woman in 1858 who was so utterly miserable that she fled her bad marriage ( This was unusual for the time ) , unable to work she got a job as a cabin boy and held cabin boy jobs for 12 years. Life on board a Victorian ship for 12 years for a young menstruating female hiding her gender!

    I agree with Rod ( heck is that twice week ? ) that she must have been a truly remarkable woman. I am sure that we won’t ever discover who she was. But may I respectfully suggest …

    If someone on that side of the Pennines can get access to Spilsby Gaol Records for mid September 1870, can you look for a male sailor whose name has changed to a female one ? I have looked for missing persons in 1857/8 papers but not come up with anything really.

  2. Rod said,

    December 14, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

    This must have been a tremendous woman and in my opinion one who deserves recognition
    I do hope that something may come up, whenever that may be - we have it on record now and as we know people come to articles on this sites years later

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