Female Tars

By Suzanne J Stark,

Book cover of Female Tars: Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail

Book description

For a very long time now I have delighted in histories, letters, records, and memoirs to do with the Royal Navy in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century; but Suzanne Stark's book has told me many, many things I did not know, and I shall keep it on an honored…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked Female Tars as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This was the first nonfiction book I read that fired up my interest and started my research for my own historical novel. Stark gives a picture of the females to be found aboard ships in the British Royal Navy, most of whom were not posing as men but were wives of warrant officers. One chapter is devoted to women in disguise in naval crews. The last chapter is devoted to the crossdresser Mary Lacy, who passed as William Chandler, and worked as a shipwright. With illustrations and endnotes, Female Tars sheds light on the women who are seldom mentioned…

From Linda's list on 18th and 19th century crossdressers.

Stark’s book is a fascinating, in-depth study of women who worked on British warships in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some were wives of warrant officers, others were disguised and serving as sailors in wartime. There were far more petticoat sailors than standard histories and fiction about war at sea would lead one to suspect. I found it easier to write my own books once I learned that “chicks in breeches,” women serving while disguised as men, wasn’t at all far-fetched. 

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