Posted by: wadahp | April 28, 2011

NAVIGATION & LIFESAVING (no. 16)

Women Lighthouse Keepers

View of: An 1865 image of Ediz Hook Lighthouse Station, where Mary Smith (1870-1874) and Laura Blach Stratton (1874-1885) both served as head keepers. Source: Coast Guard.

Despite the dangerous nature and sheer physicality of the work of a lighthouse keeper, it was one of the first non-clerical government jobs open to women. A keeper’s family members learned to tend the lights, even wives and daughters, to keep the lamp burning even if the keeper was away or ill.  Many of the first women keepers took over the position upon the illness or death of their husbands or fathers.    Between 1828 and 1905, Treasury Department records indicate 122 women served as official keepers with twice that number reported as assistant keepers. Several women have served as official head lighthouse keepers in the State of Washington, dating back to 1868 when Flora Engle oversaw Admiralty Head Lighthouse.  Ediz Hook Lighthouse near Port Angeles featured back-to-back women keepers with Mary Smith serving between 1870 and 1874 and Laura Blach Stratton from 1874 to 1885. Laura Blach married the local customs collector in Port Angeles, but maintained her keeper’s position with her husband, Thomas Stratton, serving as her assistant.  Esther Durgan watched over the Semiahmoo Light in 1925.  Mukilteo Light Station also featured a female light keeper, Mrs. Christiansen, between 1925 and 1927. Another woman, Vivian Corrie, kept the Mukilteo Light between 1946 and 1960.

View of: Flora Engle served at the Admiralty Head Lighthouse in 1868. A 2011 image of the lighthouse. Source: 2011, Artifacts Consulting, Inc.

View of: A contemporary image of Mukilteo Lighthouse Station, where Mrs. Christiansen (1925-1927) and Vivian Corrie (1946-1960) kept the lamps lit as head keepers. Source: 2011, Artifacts Consulting, Inc.

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