Call for more historical content to aid ‘Rewriting Women into Maritime History’

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A pioneering project to highlight the activities of women in the commercial shipping industry, ‘Rewriting Women into Maritime History’ is using International Women’s Day 2023 to call for more organisations to search their archives and submit stories of women’s vital role in global shipping through the ages.

Since the initiative was launched in September 2022, more than 25 organisations have offered their support including Historic England, The Seafarer’s Charity, Maritime Archaeological Trust, the Seafarers Hospital Society, Women in Trade and Shipping Association UK (WISTA UK), The Nautical Institute and many more.

The project is being led by Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s Heritage and Education Centre, supported by Lloyd’s Register Group. Organisers are calling for more organisations with archives connected to the maritime sector to contact them, so the process can begin of researching and interpreting their records through the lens of women’s involvement in shipping, now and over previous centuries.

Initial themes to emerge from the project will shared during London International Shipping Week in September 2023, via the ‘She_Sees’ project (pictured). It will combine historic accounts with stories of contemporary women working in the maritime sector through a creative visual approach. The storytelling process involves gathering and recording participant’s stories as well as co-creating portraits to visually represent maritime women’s narratives through textiles and photography.

A key objective of the project is to raise the profile of maritime expertise, experience and leadership, empowering women by reframing the narrative of a predominantly masculine industry and promoting opportunities to encourage more women into the sector.

Louise Sanger, Head of Research, Interpretation and Engagement at Lloyd’s Register Foundation said: ‘This is an exciting opportunity for organisations to look into their archive and discover overlooked histories of the vital, but sometimes under-publicised, role of women in the maritime industry over hundreds of years. It’s a legacy which can still have an impact today, which is why the Rewriting Women into Maritime History project will also share and promote current research on women in the maritime sector.’

Natasha Brown, Head of Public Information Services at the IMO said: “Shipping is fundamental for world trade, carrying more than 80% of all goods traded worldwide. The sector is still male-dominated, but past and contemporary stories of women in maritime highlight the abundance of opportunities for greater diversity in the sector.”

Deborah Layde Chief Executive of The Seafarers’ Charity and Chair of the Women in Maritime Network said: “Real life stories of women in maritime will provide aspirational role models, and allies, for women seeking a career at sea. As Chair of Maritime UK’s Women In Maritime programme I understand more work is needed to increase gender balance in shipping: there are only 24,000+ women seafarers internationally i.e. 1.28% of the workforce (ICS/BIMCO workforce report 2021).

“Quite simply more women at sea will improve both the productivity and profitability of maritime, as it has been evidenced in other sectors and workplaces across the globe.”

Sandra Welch, CEO of the Seafarers Hospital Society said: “The Seafarers Hospital Society has a long history of women patrons, employees, charity workers and benefactors committed to the treatment of all seafarers, regardless of race, religion or nationality working in UK waters. Their support and advocacy advanced medical histories for maritime and the world as a whole and we are proud to showcase their stories and contributions to our industry’s history.”

The project will focus on the UK and Ireland in 2023, branching out to international collaborations in 2024, and will run for several years. The current content call will close on 30th June 2023.

Details on the project, including the parameters for inclusion and how to submit stories, are available at: Rewriting Women Into Maritime History | Learn & Explore | Heritage & Education Centre (lrfoundation.org.uk)

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