This study explores sailing as a metaphor for freedom and autonomy and acknowledges women sailors, particularly women solo sailors, as a new variation of the female hero of myth.
The author examined articles, memoirs, and histories of expert women sailors who hold records as the first women to cross oceans. Ellen MacArthur, who holds the record for the fastest woman sailor to circumnavigate the globe, and the first all-women team to race in the America's Cup are also discussed. These and other women sailors, including pirates, have sailed alongside men for centuries. This study examines the patriarchal assumptions that have hidden these stories.
I challenge the premise that women solo sailors are somehow not "relational," and therefore, not authentically feminine. The relegation of women to the sphere of personal relationships is limiting because women have other modes of being that are not contaminated by the patriarchal gender system. This study argues for a new understanding of the feminine, one inspired by the Greek goddess Artemis, who most profoundly exemplifies the skillful, independent, and adventuresome spirit of women sailors.
The argument is developed through analysis of feminist studies, literature, and myth. The author examined literature and myth that illumines the power the call of the sea has for many human beings. The author emphasizes the importance of myths about divine females for understanding female power, particularly those about the Greek goddess Artemis who, like the solo sailor, desires freedom, autonomy, and solitude. Just as Artemis rebels against the norm as a Greek deity, so does the solo sailor rebel against social conformity. These mythic images validate the strengths and abilities of women sailors.
This dissertation closely examines the attempts by Carol Pearson, Katherine Pope, Kathleen Noble, and Maureen Murdock to distinguish the characteristics of male and female heroism. Their analyses view the female heroic journey as a psychological inward one. This study of women sailors re-imagines the archetypal female hero as active, adventuresome, and independent, qualities mirrored in the power and independence of the Greek goddess Artemis.