Date of Event: Mid 19th Century
Vessel type: Whalers
Location: Hobart & the Southern Ocean
Suggested title: A woman of consummate skill
Phillis Seal floated a number of boats—ships, in fact—in Tasmania in the 1850s. After her husband’s death in 1852, she actively managed their whaling fleet, dealing with the everyday problems and intricacies of a large business. At least 12 ships were registered in her name, including Grecian, Cheviot and the barque Aladdin. She managed, stated a competitor, with ‘consummate skill and commensurate success’. This was high praise for a pioneering businesswoman.
She even took a leadership role on behalf of other shipowners, petitioning the Hobart Marine Board for changes to the Merchant Seaman’s Act intended to make recruitment of skilled, specialized whaling crews easier.
As well as running a successful, complex shipping business the widowed Phillis raised the five of her nine children to have survived beyond infancy, and ran a number of other businesses, including a tobacco shop.
While presumably being very busy with the whaling fleet, retail businesses, children, and philanthropy, Phillis still found time to enjoy herself, hosting ‘an exceedingly elegant Fancy Dress Ball’ for 200 guests in a wharfside shed (now Princes Wharf).
Please briefly note any objects (artefacts, images or other collection items) associated with the story
The Maritime Museum of Tasmania has numerous objects and documents relating to the business of whaling - a business upon which te wealth of the city of Hobart was founded.
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AMMC Member Institution
Maritime Museum of Tasmania
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