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1870s Lighthouse Service Regulations-Women must not be--

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Postby island » Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:00 pm


Regulations concerning keeper appointments included the following:

LVI. Women and servants must not be employed in the management of lights,
except by the special authority of the Department. (The authority should
be obtained before the nomination is made.)

Certain lighthouse inspectors had reported that women were inferior and incapable
to assume the responsibilities to efficiently perform the duties required of lightkeepers.
island
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Postby tinypiney » Thu Oct 06, 2011 2:08 pm


That makes no sense! :?
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Postby island » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:53 pm


This was one of eight regulations issued together in the 1870s by the Lighthouse Board relating to qualifications for appointments of lightkeepers. These regulations served as instructions to the district superintendents regarding nominating individuals for keeper positions.

Would you care to expand on your response and explore the reason(s) why this regulation concerning women made no sense in the lighthouse service of the 1870s?
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Postby tinypiney » Fri Oct 07, 2011 5:14 pm


Well, in the 1800s, there were lady lighthouse keepers, like Ida Lewis. I know it's because their husband had died or something, but the government let them. If I remember my facts, the government actually appointed her keeper... :?
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Postby island » Fri Oct 07, 2011 8:27 pm


I agree that it made no sense. Your response is very appropriate. This is a list of women lightkeepers beginning in the 1830s but with one for ten years in 1776. http://www.uscg.mil/history/uscghist/Women_Keepers.asp There were many more perhaps twice as many who were appointed assistant keeper.

At eleven of the Maryland lights there were 19 women keepers. The earliest was Ann Davis 1830-47 at Point Lookout. Three women were keepers of Piney Point; Ann Nuthill 1850-61, Eliza Wilson 1873-77, Helen Tune 1877-83.

You probably know most of this. In the early years there was only one appointed keeper but for him to do the job he had to have family members to help so in many cases the keeper's wife served as an unpaid assistant who would function as keeper if the keeper was away from the station or was ill. If the keeper's wife died and there were no sons or daughters to be assistant the keeper was compelled to quickly obtain a second wife or otherwise resign from his keeper job. Often a wife was appointed keeper if her husband physically could no longer do the job. If he died but she would have to have another family member to assist or promptly obtain a new husband. These second wives or second husbands did not always work out well as assistant keepers.

To the disadvantage of women the service gave preference to men with maritime experience and after the Civil War to veterans. The political patronage system no doubt was also a disadvantage for women. With introduction of powered fog signals and the associated mechanical equipment in the mid-1800s that the keepers were required to operate and maintain prior experience was a plus for men when being considered for keeper appointment.

Regardless, many women served as keepers prior to the mid-1870s and after. Many were exceptional. Some were not. Likewise the same for men.

And I am of the opinion that women keepers were generally much more attentive to the daily and nightly care and operation of the lighthouse lamps then were men.
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Postby tinypiney » Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:08 pm


No, I didn't know all of this- thank you.

Three women were keepers of Piney Point
... my favorite lighthouse! :mrgreen:
"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
-Charles Simic
"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."
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Postby island » Sat Oct 08, 2011 3:05 pm


At Whitehead Island light in Maine there was a keeper with his daughter as the appointed assistant when the fog bell was replaced by steam whistles thus greatly increasing the work load. This keeper and his daughter a few years later resigned for reasons of the keeper having chronic back problems. They were replaced a keeper with his wife as appointed assistant and served for 15 years. After they resigned due to her ill health two men replaced them. Very soon thereafter the Service decided the work load was too much for two men so the position of second assistant (a third man) was then added. So three men were required to do the work successfully done by a man and a woman from 1869 to 1890? (the wife of the second keeper was Abbie Burgess http://www.uscg.mil/d1/cgcabbieburgess/ )

Certain lighthouse inspectors had reported that women were inferior and incapable
to assume the responsibilities to efficiently perform the duties required of lightkeepers.

Wrong. Not true!!
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Postby tinypiney » Sun Oct 09, 2011 3:26 pm


Incapable- ha! Abbie Burgess was only two years older than me! That is SO not true.
"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
-Charles Simic
"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."
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Postby island » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:54 pm


There are several books and articles containing information about Abbie Burgess during her many years at Matinicus Rock Light. Much of this is speculation and assumption. It is not accurate for lack of research, for the authors lacking of knowledge of lightkeeping in general and not being aware of the difficult challenges of living on the isolated "Rock" and what was required for properly keeping the lights, the seven lamps with reflectors in each of the twin towers. Thus her skills and abilities are understated. She remained calm and focused and from an early age when otherwise challenged. And little or nothing has been written about her life and her dedication to her husband, to her children and to lightkeeping in the years after Matinicus Rock.
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Postby tinypiney » Sat Oct 15, 2011 12:58 pm


Yeah - two years ago I wrote an essay for school about who I could be if I could be anyone in history, and I said her. :)
"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
-Charles Simic
"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."
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Postby island » Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:25 pm


I am not surprised your choice was Abbie Eliza Burgess.
----------------
This is the west view and a north section view of the stone dwelling and stone towers at Matinicus Rock where Abbie first tended the lamps and where she and her family sought protection from the peak of the 1856 storm having abandoned the wooden dwelling at a lower elevation near the north tower. The stone structure with granite blocks forming the walls was at the highest elevation on this island 57 feet above sea level. Note that each tower was directly accessed from the first floor of the house.

Image

The major storm of January 1876 passed slowly and was likely followed by offshore winds of less intensity. This resulted in large waves washing across the boat landing for many days and after winds subsided. With such waves washing sideways across the boat ramp landing is very dangerous and would require two people on land for a boat to safely land; one person at the bottom of the boat ramp to attach the hook immediately when the boat on one wave touched the ramp and the second person at the top of the ramp to immediately using the hand operated winch pull the boat out of reach of the subsequent waves. Timing had to be precise with the boat contacting the ramp and hit by following waves it would likely capsize, be smashed in the rocks, and dump its contents and with possible injury to the occupant. With Abbie alone and no third person, Keeper Burgess had to wait until the seas subsided before he could attempt to land.
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Postby tinypiney » Tue Oct 18, 2011 2:44 pm


I'd never be able to accomplish what she did, that's so cool :)
"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
-Charles Simic
"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."
-Benjamin Franklin
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Postby island » Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:18 pm


What are you saying? #-o You could accomplish what she did!
Abbie Burgess had lived on The Rock for nearly four years before the January 1856 storm when at age 16 years 3 months, nearly four years before this storm to lean how to survive when living at this place and to gain experience and competency in operating the lighthouse lamps. With training and guidance and support when developing the skills there is no reason why you could not accomplish the same result though you may not do exactly what Abbie Burgess did or exactly the way she did it.

The father and daughter I mentioned earlier, the daughter was Abbie Long and age 17 when she became her father's assistant keeper. She also had to run the household. Her mother was sickly and later died, and her younger sister died two months later. There then remained three younger siblings in the family. Father and daughter had received appointments to Cape Elizabeth Light but because of the loss of family members and his health they requested the appointments be withdrawn and remained at Whitehead until he could physically no longer function as keeper. The Grants replaced them in June 1875 but within a day or so upon arrival at Whitehead, her father Samuel Burgess most recently having died, Abbie left for a month to assist her mother. Abbie Long remained as Isaac Grant's assistant during this period until Abbie Grant returned.
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Postby tinypiney » Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:59 pm


Maybe if I lived there prior and had training...
"Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships."
-Charles Simic
"Lighthouses are more useful than churches."
-Benjamin Franklin
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