Patten Down the Hatches!

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Image: National Portrait Gallery, Mary Ann Brown Patten 1857

We often hear about adventures at sea involving storms, mutinies, accidents, and illness. More often than not, the storyteller goes on to talk about the heroics of a crew member who is, usually, a man. But what if it were a woman? An amazing 19-year-old woman? A woman who happened to also be pregnant?

The story of Mary Patten was well known when it took place in the 19th century. It appeared in many newspapers because of the sheer novelty of the incident. Women in 19th-century society were considered the “weaker sex,” and whose sole purpose, in middle class America, was to support their husbands and families at home.  I grew up in New England and never heard a word about Mary.    Read more