Two Nerdy History Girls: From the Archives: Sarah Bowdich Quells a Mutiny, 1816

Originally posted on Two Nerdy History Girls.

In 1816, not all English ladies were leading a genteel, Austen-esque life in the country. At least one of them was sailing with her infant daughter to Africa to meet her husband. Sarah Wallis Bowdich (1791-1856) was the only woman, let alone the only lady, on board a small merchant ship full of desperate men. Here’s Sarah’s own telling of what happened one evening, from her 1835 book Stories of Strange Lands, & Fragments from the Notes of a Traveller:

“The surgeon whispered to me his apprehensions that all was not well, and that our people…were irritated and annoyed, and in a most discontented state. The first mate was in command of the vessel; and, though he was an admirable sailor, and a most obliging and excellent person, was very impetuous. The dinner was sent to table very ill-dressed, and the cook was summoned aft to receive a reprimand. He became impertinent, and the mate, seizing a butter-boat, threw it at his head….A general scuffle ensued, and the second mate, running to the chest of arms, loaded a brace of pistols, and stood in the door-way of the cabin, swearing to two men who came aft, that he would blow their brains out if they ventured a step further. I expostulated with him, but he only replied, “You do not know the danger, Ma’am; the men are in a state of mutiny, and if they…

via Two Nerdy History Girls: From the Archives: Sarah Bowdich Quells a Mutiny, 1816.

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