SheHeroes at Sea

A really interesting story went viral today. We of course couldn’t help but spread the story ourselves by posting it on Facebook. It was the story of Jeanne Baret, a pioneering botanist, and the first woman to circle the globe. Not that we knew that until recently…

In 1776 Baret sailed out on the first French naval expedition charged with circumnavigating the planet. She was the companion of renowned botanist Philibert Commerson who had been tapped to lead scientific work on the expedition. Commerson wanted to bring Baret as his assistant but women were not allowed to travel aboard French naval vessels. So Baret dressed as a man. Though not long into the trip she was interrogated by the captain (after all it was close quarters and some men began to suspect something). Thinking on her feet Baret told the captain she was an Eunoch, and was not hassled the rest of trip.

A newly described plant species discovered by Baret has been named Solanum baretiae in her honor. Eric Tepe, a biologist with the University of Utah and the University of Cincinnati, named the species after hearing about Baret's work during a National Public Radio interview with Glynis Ridley, author of the biography, "The Discovery of Jeanne Baret" (Crown, 2010), on the program "All Things Considered."

Baret wouldn’t be the only one woman who dressed as a man in order to sail the high seas. Famous pirates such as Ann Bonny and Mary Read both dressed at men to sail alongside the infamous pirate Captain Calico Jack. Rachel young was another woman who lived as a pirate named Billy; her true identity wasn’t discovered until she died in an accident.

The stories of these women at sea are important because they put a female face on the whimsical history of swashbuckling sea fairing folk. Search the internet for more amazing stories of women at sea or even better visit the library.

Here is a list of some amazing books the sea-loving SheHero in your life would love,

  • Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook.
  • She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea by John Druett
  • Women Sailors and Sailors’ Women by David Cordingly
  • Pyrates in Petticoats: a Fanciful & Factual History of the Legends, Tales, and Exploits of the most notorious Female Pirates and also Some Lesser Known Women Who Plied the Seas and inland Waterways for Fortune, Adventure & Romance from Ireland, China, the Bahamas, and the Barbary Coast to the Americas by Cathy Johnson
  • Women Pirates and the Politics of the Jolly Roger by Klausmann, Ulrike, Marion Meinzerin, and Gabriel Kuhn.
  • Female Tars: Woman Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail by Suzanne J Stark

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