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Introduction
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Myths and Mermaids
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Life in Port
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Going to Sea
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Lighthouse Keepers
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Changing Roles for Women
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Women in the Military
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Women in Wartime Production
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Early Yachting and Racing
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Women and the Sea in the 20th Century
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Timeline
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Resources
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In This Chapter

Introduction

Abbie Burgess
Ida Lewis
Fannie Salter

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Abbie Burgess

Abbie Burgess moved to Matinicus Rock Light in Maine with her family when she was fourteen years old. The oldest of four sisters, Abbie helped her father fill the lamps with whale oil, trim the wicks, and polish the glass. Matinicus Rock is four miles from shore, so all supplies--food, oil, and coal--were brought by boat. Because of the treacherous rocks around the lighthouse, delivery during bad weather was out of the question.

Argand Fountain Lamp
The Mariners' Museum
Gift of the U.S. Coast Guard

In January 1856, Mr. Burgess went to the mainland for supplies. A storm came up, and he was unable to return for four weeks. Abbie kept the light burning throughout his absence, and helped her mother and sisters move into the light tower just before the light keeper's house was swept away.

Abby Saves the Chickens
1897 Albert Blosse, engraver
From The Century Magazine, Vol. 54
The Mariners' Museum Research Library and Archives

Abbie and her family tended the light until 1860, when a new keeper was appointed. Even then, Abbie stayed on as lighthouse keeper's assistant, earning $440 a year. She later married the keeper's son, Isaac Grant. The couple worked the light together, until their transfer to Whitehead Island Light in 1875. Abbie earned $480 a year as assistant. Due to her failing health, Abbie retired in 1890. She died in 1892 and is buried in Spruce Head, Me.







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