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Nautilus in major global project to rewrite women into maritime history

1 September 2022

Nautilus International is part of an extensive new global research project to showcase female involvement in the maritime industry over the centuries.

The Rewriting women into maritime history project will collate material that is spread across various archives, beginning within those in the City of London, expanding to the UK and Ireland, and then going international so that accounts of women in the shipping industry can be identified and placed in the public domain for the first time.

Led by the Lloyd's Register Foundation Heritage and Education Centre (LRF HEC), the collaboration currently involves Lloyd's List, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Nautilus International, the Nautical Institute, the Women in Shipping and Trade Association (WISTA UK), and Preston Turnbull LLP. It is also being supported by The International Congress of Maritime Museums (ICMM), The National Maritime Museum, the University of Exeter and The British Commission for Maritime History (BCMH).

Other interested parties are invited to join the initiative, which will run over several years and is aimed at changing perceptions on the historical role of women in shipping.

A key theme of the project is diversity, equality and inclusion. Through ensuring that forgotten voices are heard, stories generated by the project can highlight the many opportunities presented by a maritime career.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson said: 'Nautilus is proud to lend its support to this global initiative, which aims to ensure that the contributions of women to the maritime industry are remembered and celebrated.

'The Union has long supported efforts to increase female representation in maritime and overcome barriers to maritime careers, whether through our own Equality and Diversity Forum, our participation in Maritime UK's diversity networks, or our work with the Maritime Skills Commission. We have also taken the lead on measures to counter bullying and harassment at sea, to enhance maternity and paternity leave and to fight sexual harassment.

'This latest initiative will help to showcase women seafarers' skills and talents and attract talented people from different backgrounds into the industry.'

LRF HEC's head of research, interpretation and engagement Louise Sanger, who is leading the research project, said: 'Women in maritime history is an area of growing research but there is still work to be done. Apart from a few notable exceptions, women have largely been excluded from the maritime history narrative.

'We hope that this new research project will help to contribute to the growing discourse of women's history and help uncover forgotten stories. Importantly, through raising awareness the initiative will help to encourage discussion and action on inequalities that still exist in the industry today.'

Chief marketing officer at Lloyd's Register Philippa Charlton said: 'Women have always been involved in the maritime industry but there is limited publicly available evidence of their engagement in shipping from the 1800s and even earlier, until the present day. This has created a misperception that women are 'new' to shipping, or that their past contributions have not been significant or meaningful. We hope to help rectify that with Rewriting women into maritime history and we hope other organisations will join us.'

ICS director employment affairs Natalie Shaw said ICS called on the industry to support the project: 'Women have long been a part of our industry and it is time that this is recognised. We are all currently on a journey, and rightfully so, to ensure that our sector is more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

'As we mark our centenary here at ICS our focus is on the future, but we should not forget the past and the important role that women played in history.'

Vice chair for the British Commission for Maritime History and author of Enterprising Women and Shipping in the Nineteenth Century Dr Helen Doe, from The University of Exeter said: 'Women have always played an important part in the maritime sphere both by running maritime business, working in maritime industries and through financial support, but finding them is the hard part. This project to identify sources will celebrate these women and highlight their contribution.'

President of WISTA UK Monica Kohli said: 'To develop in the future – we need to know our past, and celebrate the achievements of the ladies who have been present, made a difference but not yet been recognised or acknowledged.'

More information about this initiative can be found here.