She Was The First Female Commander Of An American Merchant Vessel, Taking Over For Her Sick Husband During A Voyage To San Fransisco While Still Only A Teenager

Kovalenko I - - illustrative purposes only

When people think of those who sailed the seas before the 21st century, they often think of men and masculine pirates.

However, there were many women just as capable of operating and commanding ships back then. They just don’t get the same amount of credit.

One of those women was Mary Patten, who is known for being the first female commander of an American merchant vessel.

Mary was born in Massachusetts in 1837. In 1853, when she was 16-years-old, she married Joshua Patten, a young captain working on ferrying cargo from New York to Boston.

Two years later, Joshua was offered the opportunity to command a clipper ship named Neptune’s Car, and he got permission for Mary to accompany him on the voyage.

On their first voyage aboard Neptune’s Car, Mary diligently took care of her husband and got to learn about sailing and navigation.

The ship quickly earned a reputation for being speedy, so Joshua was asked to captain the ship again in 1856. Mary joined him again, but this time, she was pregnant with their first child.

However, tragedy struck when Joshua became ill from tuberculosis and was too sick to command the ship in the middle of their journey.

Those who would’ve originally taken over, the first and second mates, ended up being terrible at their jobs and couldn’t navigate the ship properly.

Kovalenko I – – illustrative purposes only

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