Mothers and wives keep fishing families and communities together through fat and lean times, through worry and celebration. Over generations they’ve also supported each other, and supported their husbands with community service, social gatherings, and – when it was needed – political activism.
Betsy Pye told us that women have been doing this work since the whaling days. “I take care of things when he goes fishing because they need to be done,” she said, “it’s not because it’s my job or his job, it’s just something that needs to be done. And that’s just part of what I think most women do whose husbands are at sea, or whose partners are at sea.” One of the things she’s had to do is participate in advocacy for the groundfishing fleet. Her husband gave her a card once. It said: “thank you for trying to save the fishing industry.” She once told the audience on the Narrative Stage that she wasn’t sure there would be a groundfish industry for her son, who was ten at the time.
Beatrice Calnan remembers the Christmas party that the fishermens’ wives put on when she was younger. “Well I think it would be nice if the fishermen’s wives now helped more and got together. I think that it is a nice, nice to have an organization. We used to have great Christmas parties…for the fishermen at night….We’d have as much as a hundred people there.” She also describes how close her children became, over family dinners.
When she was growing up in a fishing family, Charlotte Enoksen’s Norwegian church community provided support for each other. “We were all living the same life,” she said. “Everybody I knew, their fathers were fishing too. It wasn’t unusual, it was life.” Others on the stage have also talked about this kind of community in earlier generations. There were sewing circles and church get togethers, and holidays with traditional Norwegian food. It made them feel like they were in it together. Here’s Charlotte’s story from the Narrative Stage.