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Ladies of the Seas: the hidden history of women at sea in the Upper Adriatic

Photography: Archivio di Stato di Trieste, I. R. Governo Marittimo - Seebehörde (1850-1923) in Trieste, 1385, p. 138 (upper part), steamer "Bojana".

Publish Date: 04.01.2021

Category: ERC & MSCA, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 5 Gender equality, 8 Decent work and economic growth, 10 Reduced inequalities (Indicators)

Albeit the maritime word is traditionally considered as a solely male domain, starting from the second half of the Nineteenth century several women as shipowners, maritime staff and also fisher[wo]men  rode the waves of the Upper and Eastern Adriatic.

The Marie Skłodowska Currie Actions (MSCA) Project “We Can Do It! Women’s labour market participation in the maritime sector in the Upper Adriatic after the two World Wars in an intersectional perspective” (acronym: WeCanIt; grant agreement No. 894257) funded by Horizon 2020 just deals with their hidden history. The research is conducted by Dr. Erica Mezzoli – under the supervision of Prof. Marta Verginella – at the Department of History-Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana and in collaboration, as secondment, with the International Institute of Social History of Amsterdam.

The WeCanIt project is to think afresh women’s labour market participation in an “unusual” sector, focusing the situation of five localities: Trieste (Italy); Koper, Piran and Izola (Slovenia); Rijeka (Croatia). The primary objective of the research is “to re-float” quantitatively and qualitatively women’s labour market participation in the maritime industry through the prism of intersectionality (i.e. the interrelation among gender, social class, nationality, etc.). The ambition of the research project is twofold: on one hand, it aims to deconstruct the idea that there are “proper” jobs for men and “proper” jobs for women (i.e. the gendered division of labour), and on the other hand it intends to go beyond the conventional – and conservative – perspective of research on the Upper Adriatic during the 20th century, which focused – almost exclusively – on the consequences of the balance of power among States, disregarding other dynamics such as, for example, the unconventional choice of some women to “to put out into the deep”. 

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