Wandering around the new and fabulous Nantucket Whaling Museum last week I was awed by the immense jawbone of a sperm whale, standing up on end more than ten-feet high, and full of huge teeth that were easily eight-inches long. Imagine being in a whaleboat not even twice as big as the whale's jaw alone, rowing out from the main ship to get near enough to harpoon the whale. Then if you're successful with the harpoon, you get dragged along behind in a Nantucket 'sleigh ride' as the whale fights for its life. In counterpoint to this manly daring and bravado, the women apparently had their own early feminist and perhaps fatalist outlook. Noted as a "Nantucket Girl's Song," here's what one young woman, Eliza Brock, was thinking as she wrote in her journal aboard the ship Lexington between 1853 and 1856.
Laugh Because I'm Free
Then I'll haste to wed a sailor, and send him off to sea
For a life of independence, is the pleasant life for me.
But every now and then I shall like to see his face,
For it always seems to me to beam with manly grace,
With his brow so nobly open, and his dark and kindly eyes,
Oh my heart beats fondly towards him whenever he is nigh,
But when he says, "Goodbye my love, I'm off across the sea,"
First I cry for his departure, then laugh because I'm free.