An example of a whaling captain’s wife going to sea with him. Whaling wives were usually known for their New England piety amidst the rough-hewn crews of 19th-century whaling ships. This is the diary of one of them, Martha Brown, who sailed from Orient, New York, aboard the Lucy Ann on August 31, 1847, on an eastward voyage round the world that eventually passed Cape Horn.
p. 35-6 [Sunday, Oct. 31, 1847]: Through the interposition of divine providence, we are spared to behold the light of another day, and, though we cannot today enjoy the privileges of the Sanctuary, God grant that its sacred hours may not be misimproved in the closet. Nothing can debar us from comeing to God in secret, and have we not the promice that he will ever hear the cry of faith and penitence, and in his own good time and manner send gracious answer of peace. Evening. I have read the first 4 chapters of Matthew with the explanations and notes in the Cottage Bible, and anticipate going through them regularly. Read 4 chapters ever Sabath aloud for our entertainment and instruction, with a fervent prayer that God will bless them to our spiritual and everlasting good. Edward has read two cantos in Mr. Robinson’s Poems, which we find very interesting. It is my desire that Jesus may be our spiritual teacher—that although deprived of the stated means of grace, which I have hitherto enjoyed, we may not be left to grope our way along in darkness, but be ripening for heaven as we are advancing towards the grave.
p. 39: I have been reading the memoirs of Mrs. Winslow, missionary to India, to day. And when I think what she done and suffered for the good of souls, and still felt to be so unworthy of the name of a Christian, and to come so far short of her duty. What can I think of myself, sitting with my hands folded and apparently thinking—that I am to be carried to heaven on flowery beds of ease? … We have need of a mishinary on board. We number 31 in all, and not one, I believe makes any pretentions to religion. And as near as we can ascertain, not but one in the forcastle that can read, out of 16. I feel that I desire to do something, but know not how to begin.
p. 52 [Sunday, Feb 13, 1848] when she wanted “to hear dispensed the words of truth and life”: And if we were like many or most of our crew, would not read a word for ourselves. Methinks our condition would be a deplorable one. What better are they than the poor heathen, especially hear at sea? They have appeared very well so far on the Sabath, they make but little noise. But what they do in the fore castle I can not say. The Capt. has not had to reprimand them once, I believe. I have proposed reading to them. Some of them say they would like to hear good reading. I desire to put it of[f] no longer than next Sabath if it is pleasant…. The mate tries not to believe in anything, but still he has a heart, and I trust one that is susceptible of right and wrong, and a Wife that is a professor of religion….
p. 57: April 2 Sunday Eve…I have been reading Mores Practicle Piety and Cause and Cure of Infidelity the past week. Have been much interested in them—Nelsons, in particular. If I could remember what I read I think I might become much wiser. It is my wish to become wise unto salvation I wish all cavilers [detractors] of the Bible could be persuaded to read that book and follow his direction for a happy result.
In late April Martha debarked in Honolulu to await a baby while her husband went with his ship for some months.
p. 65: I have just finished reading the Mother at Home. I think it is an excellent book and would prove a safe guide for every mother who would follow its precepts.
Her child, William Henry, was born in Honolulu in August 1848. After much anxiety Brown’s disabled ship returned to Honolulu from Kamchatka and the Okhotsk sea in November.