The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Girl Power through the Ages: Women and Ships

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge

A lot of students come into history classes thinking that women have been constantly subjugated and discriminated against throughout history. While (unfortunately) that’s the case throughout a lot of Western history, women have had some roles that certainly hint that we're worth more than we've been given credit. 

One of those roles is as Godmothers to ships. Yes, ships have godmothers (and godfathers...but who wants to hear about the men again?). As most history tends to emerge when a famous person steps in, the tradition of having godmothers for ships came to light when it was announced that Kate Middleton has signed on to be Godmother to Princess Cruises' newest ship, the Royal Princess.  

The tradition dates back hundreds–maybe thousands–of years. No one really knows where or when it started, but it is probably as old as ships themselves. It grew from older traditions, such as the Babylonians sacrificing an ox, the Turks a sheep, and the Vikings and Tahitians human blood when a new ship was about to set sail.    

These early ceremonies were mostly religious and changed into secular ceremonies around the time of the Reformation in Europe (the 1500s). This adopted a tradition more closely aligned with Viking-era traditions, with royalty or nobility drinking from a special cup and calling out the ship's name, then throwing the cup over the side of the vessel. Eventually, when nobility got tired of throwing expensive cups into the ocean, they began using a bottle of champagne. This tradition continues today.

Over the centuries, it largely became the task of royal and celebrity women to oversee this. So, in June, we’ll be seeing Duchess Kate continue the British tradition by posing for the photos while performing the blessing.  

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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