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Jo Stanley

Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory

Welcome to my website

I'm a creative historian who works with museums, universities and in the community. Women who went to sea - whose travel transformed their lives forever - are my special area of expertise.

Jo StanleyMy especial interest is in the stories of people who have led marginalised lives in the past - and sought adventure, freedom and the space to be all they are, and might become.

In particular this means recording people, or helping them write their stories. They tend to be people who've taken jobs at sea despite the odds - like women, black and minority ethnic (BAME) and LGBTQI people - for whom seagoing meant sometimes liberation and sometimes injustice.

Cut LassShips are hypersexualised spaces for those confined in them. As a cultural historian, that's fascinating to me. They're heterotopias (meaning other places, like Wonderland) and liminal zones, which means they explain a lot about our societies on land.)

I live in Marsden in the Pennines, and work a lot in London and abroad. At Liverpool John Moores University I am Visiting Senior Research Fellow. At the University of Hull's Maritime Historical Studies Centre I am an Honorary Research Fellow.

The latest book that I've contributed to

Women: Our History, Intro by Lucy Worsley, published by Dorling Kindersley, London, 2019. My sections are on adventurers and piracy.

Women: Our History Women, Ours History - explorers Women: Our history - piracy

What they say about me

'Jo Stanley has for many years now fearlessly explored the depths of maritime history. She has discovered so many treasures that she herself has become a treasure. Read From Cabin 'Boys' to Captains and find out why.'
Marcus Rediker, author of Outlaws of the Atlantic, Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh.
'Your articles are concise, revealing, heartfelt, funny, and very necessary.'
(Dr Ray Walsh, John Moores University)
'You've written probably the most innovative essay ever in the historiography of mobilities.'
(Dr Peter Norton, Editor, T2M Yearbook, University of Virginia)
'I've been a fan of your work for a long time, as it really opens new and fun horizons for maritime history.'
(Henry Trotter, author and Yale University/University of Cape Town).

Catch this


  • Miss Jack Tar the sailor's daughterGirls just wanna have fun, afloat
    Illustrated talk by Dr Jo Stanley at National Maritime Museum Greenwich, Friday 13 March at 12 midday. Cost free.

    Hear how girls and young women in history surmounted obstacles to seagoing. They even became captains. Helping them surge forward were the Sea Rangers, whose centenary is this April, and the Girls' Nautical Training Corps. Come and be inspired.

  • Higham HallApril 28-30. Mapping Your Lifestory. Creative autobiography workshop at Higham Hall. £248.

  • May 9 (Sat): University of Iceland, Reykjavik. Lost history: Allied women as occupiers in WW2. Illustrating the story of UK and US nurses, Red Cross hospitality workers and entertainers from 1940 -1943.

  • Me tooAnytime - it's online. #MeToo and mar hist: Tackling the silences about women's subjective sexuality in maritime histories, Maritime Toxic Masculinity conference, 29 April 2019

What am I doing now?

  • National Maritime MuseumLeading as research facilitator at the National Maritime Museum's collaborative community project on women's maritime history
  • janine and evelyn with NMM map

  • presenting and co-producing Home from Home, Dover, a film about Helen Beale, a WW1 Wren officer, with Jo Wiser
  • Irene Lofthouse. Credit Bradford Telegraph & Argus

  • creating a Khaki Angel, one-woman play about WW2 Allied servicewomen occupying Iceland, with performer Irene Lofthouse
  • Finishing Dangerous Adventures: civilian women save the wartime seas. It's a history book for Yale UP. Publication date tba but hopefully 2020.
  • Exploring the history of women stowaways. Yes, hiding yourself on ship was a gendered business - and not glam. A stowaway to reportWomen paid a bigger price than male stowaways, but were probably less likely to be imprisoned on arrival. Provisional title: Not wanted on voyage: women who stowed away 1850-1970.

Read this

  • RINA

    A centenary history of women in the Royal Institution of Naval Architects. Mini-biographies of women who design ships. I did the preface and the section on its star, Eily Keary. Download it for free from RINA.

Recent Blog items

2020 2019