ďThe Captainís WifeĒ...Becomes Captain
by Douglas Kelley
Reviewed by Alexis Olson
The Captainís Wife reimagines the incredible story of Mary Patten, one of the only women in American history to take command of a full-rigged merchant clipper ship.
With a crew of 30 men, Neptuneís Car sailed from New York harbor in the summer of 1856 on a voyage bound for San Fransisco. Among those onboard were Captain Joshua Patten and his new wife, 19 year-old Mary Patten. Despite hopes of a leisurely voyage around Cape Horn, the shipís course took them through the most treacherous weather in years. However, dangerous straits were not the shipís only concern. The First Mate was arrested after his hostile temperament erupted into a plot of mutiny, leaving Captain Patten to steer the ship alone.
Overworked and exposed to cruel winds, Captain Patten fell seriously ill and eventually lapsed into a coma. Having studied navigation as a pastime on previous voyages, Mary Patten was the only one onboard who could take observations and lay the shipís course. So, with disarming courage, Mary Patten took command of the ship. She maintained her command despite traces of treason, high winds and sea, a deathly sick husband, and the gradual realization that she was pregnant. When Neptuneís Car arrived safely in San Fransisco Mary Pattenís exploits were lauded in the press and leaders of the feminist movement in Boston made the most of her heroism.
The best heroes are those of circumstance. Women and sailors will empathize and feel proud reading The Captainís Wife. Her skill and competence were normal for her, but abnormal for the times and ultimately heroic. The Captainís Wife is a reminder that you do not have to do impossible things to be couragous, but do what you can at a critical time.
Book price $23.95
A Native of Fort Smith, Arkansas, Douglas Kelley now makes his home just across the Oklahoma state line. From this landlocked base, a profession as a corporate pilot facilitated his travels to research this book of the sea.