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Jo Stanley

Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory

Women at sea and why they matter

Traditionally, ships are places where women shouldn't be, said some men. But why stop half the population from being mobile in this way? And how can women fulfil their potential by roving and becoming all the things they never even dared to dream of on land.

Exploring women's maritime pasts is what a few historians are doing, such as Margaret Creighton, Lisa Norling, Joan Druett and Suzanne Stark. I've been exploring in this way since the 1980s. Pirates and pursers, dancers and doctors, captains and cooks: I've written and talked about women in most seafaring occupations. (And I'm always impressed. Do I myself fancy seafaring? No, I get too sick!).

Women and the Royal Navy

Women and the Royal Navy

'Modern armed forces must represent the societies they defend if they wish to remain relevant in the modern world. Jo Stanley's expertly- contextualised book explains how the modern Royal Navy successfully integrated women into seagoing service, a key example of transformation that has benefited the Navy, the nation and all those involved.'
Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History, Kings College, London
'My grandmother Dame Katharine Furse [the Women'’s’ Royal Naval Service’s first director] convinced me that a woman could achieve whatever she set her mind to. Jo Stanley's wonderful book will inspire women worldwide.'
Hon. Elizabeth Furse, United States Congresswoman (retired)
'The author gives an authoritative and dynamic account of the vital role women in naval uniform have played in the shaping of today’s maritime forces – it is recognition long overdue. She asks the questions, skilfully provides the answers and tells it as it is. For anyone with an interest in things naval and women in particular this is an inspirational book which deserves a place in everyone's library. An excellent sequel to her previous book 'From Cabin 'Boys' to Captains''
Commodore Muriel Hocking RD* Royal Naval Reserve, the first and only woman in command of the RNR and the navy’s first ever female commodore.

'A meticulously researched tribute to women's immense contribution to naval service, mirroring their sisters' with the air force and army.
Mary Mackie, author of Wards in the Sky: The RAF's Remarkable Nursing Service.

'Jo Stanley's work is distinguished by the trouble she takes to uncover and explain the "how" and the "why" of women's full integration into the Royal Navy, rather than merely reporting the "what". Both as a military reference and a social commentary, the end result is important and compelling.’
Commodore Carolyn Stait, CBE, Naval Base Commander Clyde (Faslane), 2004-2007.

'Naval Nurses of the QARNNS are respected members of the longest serving women's service within the Royal Navy. This book shows the evolvement of the Service from the days of the lob-lolly boys who assisted the ship's surgeon, to the highly trained defence nurse specialists available to serve aboard ship or ashore, home or abroad.'
Nora Lewis, author of Nursing in the Navy, and former QARNNS Sister
'The Royal Navy loomed large in my family history. To my delight this book makes clear the enormous but hidden role played by women in the Senior Service life. It is based on sound research and engagingly written and deserves to find a wide audience.'
Dr Susan Rose, lecturer, maritime author, and granddaughter of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Jellicoe

From Cabin 'Boys' to Captains

From cabin boys to captains

FacebookPlease post your seafaring stories and pictures on the From Cabin Boys to Captains Facebook page.

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Available at Amazon

'This is a breath-taking account of women serving at sea in a variety of capacities over several centuries. More than this, it is a story of bravery and silent resolve. It tells of women who have faced discomfort, discrimination, harassment, violence, and abuse to silently pursue their ambitions and dreams. It is about human strength of character and tremendous, largely unnoticed, courage. It is immensely powerful and uplifting and resonates strongly with the contemporary experiences of women seafarers. Like the best of historical work it adds to our understanding of the present as much as it does of the past.'
Professor Helen Sampson, Director, Seafarers International Research Centre


Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages (Ed), Pandora 1995, Rivers Oram and Toyoshorin, Japan, 2003

Available at Amazon

BOLD in her BREECHES coverThis book succeeds admirably. It is by turns questioning, sceptical, imaginative, personal. The authors reconstruct, suppose, and above all, tell what can be known. It's written with wit and a light touch.

Women who wanted to work at sea faced stiff resistance in the 1970s in the Merchant Navy and in the 1990s in the Royal Navy. It's sometimes still a challenge. Picture courtesy of Sally Fodie.


Proud to have contributed to:

September 2017: The first UK conference on race in maritime history: Race and the Sea. Liverpool JMU

September 2017: Advising on the black women seafarers for the exhibition Black Salt at Merseyside Maritime Museum, the first on race in any UK maritime museum

Summer 2017: Stories of pioneering stewardesses who sailed to West Africa, on the forthcoming website of the Elder Dempster Lines Heritage Archive Project.
University of Liverpool

stewardesses who sailed to West Africa

Stewardess Julia Andrew sailing on Elder Dempster vessel c 1926. Photo courtesy of Grace Pritchard.

Where can you find out more?

  • On Blog
  • In my new books
  • In some of the articles I post/sign to on
  • At the many talks and conferences I do. So watch this diary and Blog for the latest news.