By the Save Waterloo Dock Team
11 November, 2019
An interesting paper by the National Museums Liverpool explains some evidence of the work carried out by women in port history and ‘their contribution to port economics.’ SOURCE: National Museums Liverpool, Maritime Archives and Library: Information sheet 67. ‘Women in Maritime Records IMAGE FROM DAWLISH CHRONICLES.COM -emigrants on their way to new zealand
Liverpool’s maritime Archives and Library is a source to discover some insight into women's roles, generally records are scant in maritime history and records.
However, the archives show that women were employed as lighthouse keepers and two sisters Anne and Catherine Urmson took over at Bidston Lighthouse after their father passed away. ‘They were to receive the same pay as their father, split between them.’
It would appear that women’s jobs were deemed unimportant ‘casual or hidden away’, so history has in effect made their contribution hard to find to the point almost of invisibility.
There is some evidence in the records of receipts to show that women had roles in ‘sail and flag making, and fitting out and cleaning ships.’
There is also a receipt made out to Sarah Walker for cleaning ivory tusks brought from Africa in 1777.
There are reports of possibly the first girl gangs with 'gangs of 40-50 women who regularly theived from the coffee ships'. So much so the need for a special dock police force was made in 1814.
Later in time, there’s an interesting story which took place in March 1916 when women were taken on as dockers at Huskisson Dock and around a similar time at Toxteth Dock. The first lot lasted about three weeks until the male workers refused to work with them supported by their union. Similarly at Toxteth Dock and so by 20 March 2016 all women’s employment was stopped.
During the second world war women were employed as sweepers in Alexandra, Gladstone and Seaforth Docks.
There are some records and diaries which serve to provide further insight to women seafarers.
In addition of particular interest to those of you focusing on the historical significance of the Waterloo Dock there are some records and journals of women emigrants departing for a new life in the United States between from 1830’s.