Born in Minnesota in 1882, Dorothea Moulton Balano was no ordinary ‘skipper’s wife.’ At a time when women were expected to remain ashore, she joined her husband, Captain Fred Balano, on maritime adventures aboard the schooner R. W. Hopkins, and her diaries, kept between 1910 and 1913, are a treasure trove of insight into seafaring life, familial bonds, and early 20th-century customs. Though she never edited her “scribblings,” her son posthumously compiled them, and in 1979 they were published as The Log of the Shipper’s Wife, offering the wider world a witty and compelling glimpse of a strong, multifaceted woman navigating the tides of change.
The Diary Entry
September 25, 1911
Rained all night and that settled the fog, but the roads are quagmires, so baked a cake to go with the jar of pear pickles given us by Captain Stanton’s wife en route to being fitted at Alice Moody’s for my new jacket and lovely mauve belt, which shows that my shipboard fare has added an inch or two to my buxom belly. As we’re probably bound for Rio, I shan’t worry about my girth. The Latins love plump women. If Fred wants a sylph, I’ll tell him that only Parisians like slender girls and that I’ll gladly starve if he’ll get us a charter to France.
The Log of the Shipper’s Wife was published in 1979 by Down East Books, edited by her son, James W. Balano. Dorothea writes brilliantly and her diary entries, which span from June 1910 to January 1913, are vibrant, unguarded, and occasionally very funny. Highly recommended.