For some the ocean is a boundary, the end of their knowable world and, as the land fades away, the beginning of an unfathomable space: fearful and huge. For others the ocean is boundlessness, freedom and escape: it is traveling deep and far away from what is known, solid and safe, and straight into the arms of other worlds–fluid worlds where boundaries and limitations are swallowed up by the waves. The sea has been a source of fascination for Barbara Sjoholm since she was a child. Believing there to be a lost history of women’s maritime travel she went in search of the source of legends, myths, folklore and hearsay about women who dared to live the life of the sailor, the pirate, the adventurer.


“If I’d discovered anything on my voyages, it was that women’s maritime heritage was diverse: fishing and piracy, seaweed gathering and swashbuckling. Women’s connection with the sea was about business and adventure, work and pleasure. About dressing as a man sometimes, about earning the respect of a crew, abut making a living as a widow, about throwing off expectations. About taking passage on a boat to new shores […] About fighting with valor and keeping one’s head when attacked. About standing on shore, and about sailing away.”


Barbara Sjoholm is a novelist, memoirist, translator, and mystery writer. In 1997, Sjoholm published the memoir Blue Windows: A Christian Science Childhood to critical acclaim. She followed that up with The Pirate Queen: In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea, about her journeys around the maritime countries of the European North Atlantic. Other travel memoirs include Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer and The Palace of the Snow Queen: Winter Travels in Lapland. Under the name Barbara Wilson she published a number of mystery novels including the award-winning Gaudi Afternoon which was made into a film with Judy Davis and Marcia Gay Harden.


A talk presented by the Charles H. Scott Gallery and the Vancouver Maritime Museum in conjunction with The Voyage, or Three Years at Sea – Part II.