UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

At home afloat: gender and domesticity in Northwest Coast marine travel accounts Pagh, Nancy


The ideology of home—essentially the notion that "a woman's place is in the home"— tends to shape the expectations and assumptions of both men and women regarding the interests and abilities of women on the water. In "At Home Afloat: Gender and Domesticity in Northwest Coast Marine Travel Accounts," I analyze those expectations and their effects in a regional context. Reading accounts by female boat tourists between 1861 and 1990, I question the ways that gender influences the roles women play at sea, the spaces they occupy on boats, and the language they use to construct their experiences, their surroundings, and their contact with native peoples. In this dissertation I show women—traditionally forbidden in marine environments —participating in Northwest Coast steam tourism from its initiation, and influencing steamship company promotional language. I trace a history of women who enter the local recreational boating community and alter it with their home-making skills and their demand for "houseboats," and I map how domestic ideology can divide the built space of the boat into gender-specific territories. Women who labor in marine occupations (fishers, towboaters) cope with the limitations of a "masculine" environment. My work shows how female tourists, who typically cruise as "mates" with their captains/husbands, cope with these same limitations while bearing the added responsibility of answering to the patriarchal head of household; as a result, women who gain access to boats through their domestic abilities can be "ghettoized" in the galley. This project hypothesizes that "feminine discourse" (shaped by the Victorian cult of the home), together with the limitations of steamship transportation, led nineteenth-century female boat travellers to portray native women as "counterfeit ladies" and to seek homescapes in the mixed land/seascape. After the turn of the century-with the rise of the myth of the disappearing Indian, and the growing popularity of small-boat cruising—female boat tourists use feminine discourse to question their own position as outsider in the native world. Finally, I show that although literary works rely on seascape metaphors to symbolize woman's escape from the "social moorings" of gender expectations, these travellers tend to depict themselves in traditional domestic roles and find the waterscape largely "indescribable." Their accounts focus on "enfolding" nature into the ship's household, and emphasize female connections to the land.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.