“Sometimes think of me”: Notable Nantucket Women through the Centuries
Embroidered Narratives by Susan Boardman with biographies by Betsy Tyler
The Nantucket Historical Association proclaimed 2010 “The Year of the Nantucket Woman” and offered many related exhibits and programs. The year’s major exhibition, “Sometimes think of me”: Notable Nantucket Women through the Centuries, focused on the colorful lives of thirty two outstanding women across four centuries of Nantucket history and was the NHA’s first large-scale exhibition exploring the history of the island’s remarkable women.
Needlework artist Susan Boardman illustrated the women’s stories in her “embroidered narratives,” amazingly detailed, hand-stitched pictorials that tell a story about each woman. Boardman’s textile narratives are rooted in Nantucket’s maritime traditions, where school girls captured daily life in their stitched samplers and where whalers added poetry and illustrations to their standard whaling log entries of weather conditions, location and number of whales killed.
Boardman’s work has grown to encompass a history-in-brief of the women of Nantucket from the earliest Native American period to contemporary times. Each narrative was displayed in lively detail using the NHA’s rich collections of artifacts, logbooks, and manuscript material.
In Sometimes Think of me the island’s fascinating and inspiring subjects included: the Wampanoag maiden Wonoma; whaling wife and journal keeper Eliza Brock; whaling wife and journal illustrator Susan Veeder; scientist Maria Mitchell; abolitionist Eunice Ross; as well as many contemporary Nantucket women.
Boardman’s work covers the lives of some of the most exemplary Nantucket women, whose spirit of independence, resourcefulness, and ambition, often in the face of their husbands’ long absences at sea, have made them much admired in American history. Astronomer Maria Mitchell said of her island sisters, “There is no town in New England where the whole body of women is so well-educated.”
A major feature of the exhibition is an accompanying book-length catalog, written by island historian and NHA Research Fellow Betsy Tyler. The catalog fills a major gap in Nantucket literature as an accessible, thoroughly-researched history of a broad range of outstanding island women, past and present.
Other features of the exhibition and related programming included a video production highlighting selected passages from the journals, logs, and letters of the women featured in the exhibition; a lecture by Betsy Tyler presenting the history of the women in the show (summer); and the Friends of the NHA lecture featuring Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab’s Wife.