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[Detail] Ships at the Erie Basin, New York.

Creative Writing

A handful of letters in this collection were written by women who accompanied male relatives on ocean voyages.  Nancy Bolles  accompanied her husband, Captain John Bolles on a whaling voyage to the Pacific.  Eliza T. Edwards  lived in Hawaii while her husband was whaling.  Maud Maxson  traveled with her uncle on his ship to San Francisco, while

Mary Stark  left her children behind in Mystic to travel to the Pacific with her husband, the captain of a clipper ship.

Nevertheless, it was rare for women and children to accompany their husbands, fathers, and uncles to sea.  Imagine what it was like to have been a woman or child living in a New England port town, where so many of the men were away for years at a time.  Imagine that you have recently moved to this port town and that you are writing a letter to a friend back home describing what the town and your life there is like.  For help getting started, search  on letter for examples of letter writing and for details such as names of towns, ships, and ships' captains. 

  • How many of your family members work at sea?
  • How often are they gone?  How long are they gone?  How often do you hear from them while they are away?
  • What happens when these family members return? How long do they stay?  What do you do together?  What do you talk about?
  • Where is the center of activity in town? What goes on there?
  • What are the most important businesses in town?
  • How important are religion and education in this port town?  What are they like?
  • What do the people of this town talk about? What do they do for fun?
  • Do they have a sense of town identity? If so, how would you characterize that identity?
  • What does the town look like?  What does it smell like?  What is the weather like?
  • What do you like about the town you've moved to?  What do you dislike?