email Wikipedia Facebook LinkdInTwitter
Jo Stanley

Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory

Welcome to my website

I'm a creative historian who works with the maritime industry, museums, television, theatre, social media, 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, ethnic minorities and LGBT+ 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, the home village of Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. He describes it as a uniquely 'transcendent and transgressive location' but I celebrate it as a warm Alternative community.' And I 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.

What am I doing now, 2023

My seminal blog Gender and The Sea will be full of still more unusual stories about people connected to the sea. I will be carrying on exploring, explaining and sharing path-breaking information about race, gender, class, status and the many other characteristics that intersect tellingly. You'll read histories of diverse hyper-mobile people in the maritime world, with a fresh focus on emotions, identity and voyages' potential to transform lives. And you'll be able to see more illustrated PowerPoint presentations about maritime diversity, via YouTube.

I'll be especially helping you find out about:

  • ayahs (South Asian nannies) working at sea and the families who employed them
  • safeguarding seafaring women today from sexual abuse at sea (Keith please use a cropped version of the pic at, i.e. the one that says HR at sea: We are all - 2021)
  • the global history of LGBT++ seafarers, their culture, and the ways that trips could feel like radical universities and gay pride demonstrations

STORIES. Researching and re-presenting still more microhistories of marginalised seafarers. That includes helping Lloyd's Register Foundation Heritage & Education Centre's major new project: "Rewriting Women into Maritime History" Currently I'm collaborating on the stories of Scotland's first women deck officer, a camp Dutch seafarer on UK ships, a steward who became a Pride media activist, a female marine polite and two women captains. Watch my blog for news.

TV. I'm working with several TV companies on programmes to include maritime women, especially Battle Of The Atlantic 80th anniversary events: 26 - 28 May 2023 (#BoA80).

SANITY. With my EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) lenses - and completing my training as a counsellor - I'm researching mental wellbeing on ships in history. Of course it links to safety at sea, as well as connecting to sexual harassment and LGBT++ handling of destructive homophobia aboard.

DANGER. Finishing a history book on civilian women at sea in WW2. Provisional title: Dangerous Adventures: civilian women save the wartime seas. Yale University Press. Publication date tba.


MARCH tba: "Entertaining 4 sanity@sea: Roy 'Wendy' Gibson: steward, Falklands Conflict hero, and Hull's answer to pianist Liberace". See the YouTube version of my talk about how gay seamen contributed to the morale of passengers and other crew

Ayahs as 'worker passengers'MAY 24. Mike Stammers Memorial Lecture 2023. Ayahs as "worker-passengers.' Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool, 17.30pm BST. Free. Not online.

MAY 31. "Revealing Queer Maritime History: International Museum's LGBT++ Sea Exhibitions". My online talk 18:00 to 19:30 BST at Blaydes Maritime Centre, University of Hull. Online only. Register for free at See the YouTube video a few weeks later at

Things I'm proud of doing recently

Emma Gray

Explaining: Writing a helpful introductory, "Exploring Gendered Sea Life," within "Life at Sea" to the wonderful Adam Matthew Digital collection of archived documents:

You can see evidence of women's maritime pasts including Emma P Gray's letters about sailing as a captain's wife. I enjoyed writing an ulta-clear overview introducing new researchers a clear way into the subject.

Recognising. Researching and writing the first history-based account of sexual assault and harassment on ships for Gender at Sea. See my chapter in

Maritime Day logo

Creating: Producing the first Pride in Maritime Day logo, with the help of my cousin, a whizz with Photoshop.

Blue plaque at one of the  Ayahs' Homes in Hackney

Commemorating. I contributed to the celebrations around the unveiling of a blue plaque at one of the Ayahs' Homes in Hackney. The initiative by English Heritage and Farhani Bello, nee Mamoojee, and its follow-ups, can be especially seen on Instagram at @ayahshome. See this website's pages on ethnic minorities for my articles referring to ayahs' voyages. Plaque pic.

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).
'Jo Stanley is the most outspoken and published international authority on women aboard ship in all ages. Her insight and focus, credentials and publications immensely enhance our understanding of diversity in maritime.'
(Linda Collison, author, maritime historian ).



My favourite reading and viewing just now

New Exhibitions :

  • Amsterdam. Netherlands, till March 30 2023. "Queer Spaces at Sea",
  • Bergen, Norway, till end of Dec 2023. Queer at Sea/ "Skeive sjøfolk",

New website:

Making Waves project created by Royal Museums Greenwich:

New Initiatives:

  • Rewriting Women into Maritime History project, Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage & Education Centre: women inspecting the hull
  • I exist too. A forum focused on improving LGBT+IQ+ rights in the maritime industry. I exist too

New books:

  • Gender at Sea, ed by Djoeke van Netten , Verloren , Hilversum, ISBN 9789464550399, 9464550392. See my blog for contents list Get it via Detail/eid/58732Gender at Sea
  • Maritime Men of the Asia-Pacific: True-blue Internationals Navigating Labour Rights 1906-2006 by Diane Kirkby, Lee-Ann Monk and Dmytro Ostapenko). ( 2022) Liverpool University Press. ISBN 9781802077513, 1802077510.


Frances Houghton, “ ‘Alien Seamen’ or ‘Imperial Family’? Race, Belonging and British Sailors of Colour in the Royal Navy, 1939–47,”The English Historical Review, 3 January 2023. Free access.