At Home Afloat: Women on the Waters of the Pacific Northwest

By Moore, Niamh | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2003 | Go to article overview
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At Home Afloat: Women on the Waters of the Pacific Northwest


Moore, Niamh, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Nancy Pagh, At Home Afloat: Women on the Waters of the Pacific Northwest (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2001), xix + 179pp. Paper. ISBN 1- 5523-8028-9.

In At Home Afloat Nancy Pagh - marine tourist and scholar - provides a thoroughly engaging account of life for women afloat on the waters of the Pacific Northwest. The marine environment has been central to Northwest coast regional identity and history, and sea transportation has been an everyday necessity rather than an occasional event. Pagh's account focuses on women's experiences in the emergence of marine tourism in the region, noting women's continuing marginalisation in work at sea, such as fishing. Drawing on women's accounts of life aboard small pleasure boats and steamships between 1861 and 1990, Pagh asks questions about gender differences in marine environments (also pointing to class and race). Pioneer culture here, as elsewhere, has been a masculinist colonial project.

Pagh's research reveals that the gendered division of labour and the ideology of women as homemakers on land translate only too well to boats. She locates this notion that 'women's place is in the home' - not at sea - in a broader historical context, revealing how the public/private split enshrined in English Victorian domestic ideology has been replayed and revisited in the colonial and postcolonial contexts of the Pacific Northwest in distinctive ways. Pagh notes that many women have come to sea through their (male) partners' involvement with boats. She provides an absorbing account of the advice literature to and by women boaters - that the galley is women's space, and that women's work is producing excellent meals in confined quarters, rather than learning how to operate the boat.

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