August 22nd, 2012

Women Lighthouse Keepers

women lighthouse keepersEver wonder what it was like to be a lighthouse keeper? To be responsible for ships making it safely into treacherous harbors? Lighthouses and their keepers have always inspired romantic notions of masculinity and heroism but the work itself was tiring, unpredictable, and extremely demanding. Lighthouse keepers had to be vigilant at all hours of the night to make sure the lights stayed lit for boats traveling in all kinds of weather.

The first lighthouse in Maryland was built in 1822 and the last one was constructed in 1910. At one point there were 44 lighthouses on the Maryland shores of the Chesapeake Bay. During the years from 1792 until the 1930s, lighthouses throughout the country saw a dramatic surge in their necessity and an almost as rapid decline in their use as lighthouses became automated, replaced by beacons, fell into disrepair, and ships began to employ more sophisticated methods of navigation.

Most lighthouses today serve as museums and tourist attractions and we have a couple of very popular ones here in the immediate area. Concord Point, located in Havre de Grace (also the second oldest tower lighthouse on the Bay) and Turkey Point in Elk Neck (which had more female lighthouse keepers than any other lighthouse on the Bay) are both popular parts of our local history. Did you know that the first lighthouse keeper for Concord Point was a hero from the War of 1812? Or that hundreds of women have been lighthouse keepers throughout history? Women are often overlooked throughout history for their roles in traditionally male jobs, but many women continued on as lighthouse keepers when their husbands or fathers died and did the job just as well, if not better.

Please join us at the Perryville Branch Library on Thursday, August 30, at 7pm as historian Mary Rasa presents a program tracing the fascinating history of women lighthouse keepers, what kind of duties their job entailed, their tales of isolation and hardship in extreme weather conditions, including Cecil County’s own famous Turkey Point Lighthouse keeper, Fanny Salter.

For more information, we have several exciting books about lighthouses in the area available for checkout at the library including: Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic Coast by Elinor DeWire and Lighthouses of Maryland and Virginia: History, Mystery, Legends, & Lore by Bob Trapani, Jr.

What’s your favorite lighthouse?




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