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Foreman Halldóra Ólafsdóttir at the helm with her crew. Foreman Halldóra, who fished in the Breidafjördur area in the mid-1700s, was known for hiring all-female crews, for her skill at the helm, for catching lots of fish, and for her generosity. Painting by Bjarni Jónsson (Iceland, 1934– 2008). Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/National Museum of Iceland. Foreman Thurídur Einarsdóttir (1777–1863), known for getting the largest catches, never losing a crew member, and for her cleverness, keen observation, and weatherreading skills, is shown here wearing her famed stovepipe hat and trousers. Drawing by Finnur Guðmundsson (1900–1979). Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/National Museum of Iceland. A reconstruction of Foreman Thurídur Einarsdóttir’s winter fishing hut in the town of Stokkseyri. The hut is made of stone with a sod roof and contained wooden sleeping berths for crew members along the sides of its single room. Photo by Flosi Hrafn Sigurðsson. Private collection. A letter written by Foreman Thurídur in 1853 in her old age asking a wealthy merchant for assistance. Life was very difficult at this time in Iceland for most older people who had no children to care for them, and Thurídur was no exception. The letter in translation says, “Highly estimable benefactor, God will repay you the charity with which your arms have supported me. Now I appeal to your kindness and forgive my presumption and help me with some sugar half a pound, a pint of brennivín and 2 pounds of barley bread. Ah,* forgive my presumption. May you ever be enveloped in God’s mercy. Live well, Thurídur Einarsdóttir.” The brennivín she asks for is a hard alcohol, the only one available to Icelanders at the time. Þuríður formaður A/1–1. Héraðsskjalasafn Árnesinga/Árnessýsla Regional Archive, 1991/11. * “Æ” (“Ah”) could be translated as “Please,” There’s a connotation of a little embarrassment, as if she wishes she weren’t reduced to asking for help. Fishing boats preparing to go to sea from a winter fishing outstation. Going out and returning through the open surf was particularly dangerous for these boats. Although not shown in this painting, women are also known to have stayed at these outstations and fished from these boats. Painting by Bjarni Jónsson (Iceland, 1934–2008). Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/ National Museum of Iceland. Putting on sea clothes typical of the 1800s. Seawomen wore similar jackets, under which they wore normal clothing covered by a sweater or shawl. Some women wore trousers the same as the men, although most of the women wore two wool skirts, which were very heavy when they got wet and particularly lethal if a boat capsized. Painting by Bjarni Jónsson (Iceland, 1934–2008). Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/National Museum of Iceland. (opposite) The rowing boat Gustur fitted for sailing, with crew members posing for this photo dated 1900 in their Sunday best. In the summer of 1899, there were twenty people living at the Eyjólfshús farm from which Gustur sailed. Since the farm listed only three male farmhands and seven female farmhands, it is likely that the majority of the crew that summer were women. Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/National Museum of Iceland. Rósamunda Sigmundsdóttir, who lived in the Breidafj ördur area from the mid-1800s to 1942, was known for her seafaring skills, particularly sealing, and as a helmswoman. Photo by Örn Hrafnkellsson . Early 1900s. Þjódarbókhladan/National and University Library of Iceland. An unnamed woman wearing oilskin fishing clothes, 1919–21. Photo: Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/ National Museum of Iceland. Two men, a woman, and a young boy fishing, 1944. For centuries Icelandic families have gone out fishing together. Seawomen alive today recount going to sea as young as six years old. Photo: Þjóðminjasafn Íslands/National Museum of Iceland. Unnur Skúladóttir, age twenty-three, aboard a Coast Guard and research vessel. Although Unnur started helping out on the family fishing boat while she was very young, she said, “At the age of thirteen to sixteen I became a real seaman, getting salary as a proportion of the catch sold in the nearest port.” She later received a degree in zoology at the University of Glasgow, and worked at sea as a marine researcher until her retirement in 2010. She is known for her groundbreaking research on the relationship of the size of a northern shrimp at its sex...


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