Building on the Narrative

Strong and Independent: Women in the 19th century Scottish Fishing Trade

This article was written for the Rewriting Women into Maritime History project by Anna Grybenyuk. It tells the story of the Scottish Fishwives and their crucial role to the industry.


  • The Untold Stories of Fishwives: The Backbone of the Fishing Industry
  • Fisher Lasses: Women's Roles in Herring Gutting
  • Preserving the Past, Honouring the Present: Fisherwomen's Impact on Fishing Communities Today

Fishing is often seen as a man’s job. It is true that, even today, the majority of fishing boat crews are men. Step off the boat and step back in time, however, and it becomes clear that many critical tasks were done by women.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Scottish fishing industry in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Women here served two broad, overlapping roles:

  • As fishwives doing all the chores that enabled their husbands to sail out to fish
  • As gutters who kept the cogs of the herring fishing industry moving by processing the catch.

Their skills and essential contributions afforded them a degree of respect and freedom that was unheard of for women at the time. This article helps to shine a spotlight on these remarkable, spirited fisherwomen.

             >>> View the full article by Anna here.