Women’s work

lighthouse In 2010, I took a trip to Victoria, British Columbia. I had been there for a few hours in 2005, but this time actually stayed in the city for a few days.

One of the tours I took while there included Fisgard Lighthouse in Esquimalt Harbor. It was built in 1860, and was on a small islet until a causeway was built in the 1950s, joining it to the mainland.

I love lighthouses. They are as romantic to me as castles, and I feel like I haven’t seen enough of them. The fact that most of them are obsolete these days because of GPS makes me sad, though I embrace that technology.

The Fisgard Lighthouse hits all the right notes, with its cozy little house attached to the long tower. While you are not allowed in the actual lighthouse, there is a great little museum in the house showing the day-to-day life of the keepers. Some were single men, and some had their families, or at least their wives, with them. I can only imagine the cabin fever in such a tiny place, especially in deepest winter!

The first two keepers didn’t last long, but the third, William Bevis, worked there almost 20 years. His willingness to stay in such an isolated spot for so long was likely due to having his wife Amelia with him. While he was officially the keeper, she was as capable of running the lighthouse as he was, even taking over when he got ill. A niece joined the couple around that time, and when William finally died, the two women ran the lighthouse together without any problems.

This continued for a year, because Fisgard was so remote that the bureaucrats in charge didn’t realize at first that they had lost their keeper. When they finally found out, they told the women, in spite of the fact that a local captain had recommended them for doing a great job, that it was against the rules to let a woman run a lighthouse.

Maybe they were worried that Amelia’s womanly wiles would cause shipwrecks?

While these scenarios always infuriate me, I’m glad historians are giving these women their due. Throughout the years, many women have proven themselves capable of stepping into supposedly male jobs, and most of the time, they never got credit. But at the end of the day, there really is no such thing as women’s work or men’s work. It’s just work. And our best is all we can do.

All text copyrighted by A.K. Whitney, and cannot be used without permission.


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