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A History of the Royal Navy: Women and the Royal Navy

A History of the Royal Navy: Women and the Royal Navy
Jo Stanley

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'Never at Sea' was the motto of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in its two-stage life from 1917-1919 and 1939-1994. Yet most of its members - commonly known as Wrens - wanted to serve on the ocean wave. This book considers the history and identity of the Wrens and shows how they developed from port-bound cooks, clerks, telegraphists, radar plotters and mechanics to fully-fledged members of the naval service. Using previously-unpublished first-hand material, this book explores the very different periods in the twentieth century history of women associated with the Royal Navy. It shows how Wrens moved from the exceptionalised and chaperoned ladies of WW1 to the reality of the twenty-first century's highly respected female submariners and warship commanders. Jo Stanley provides the first accessible gendered analysis of Wrens and their successors and positions the women of the Royal Navy as above all, women who wanted mobility: the right to join the fleet.

Author Info

Jo Stanley is an internationally acclaimed expert on gender and the sea. Her publications include Hello Sailor! The Hidden History of Gay Life at Sea; Risk! Women on the Wartime Seas; and Bold in Her Breeches: Women pirates across the ages. She works as a creative historian with museums and marginalised communities on art-based representations of pasts and is a Research Fellow at Lancaster University's Centre for Mobilities Research.


'Modern armed forces must represent the societies they defend if they wish to remain relevant in the modern world. Jo Stanley's expertly-contextualised book explains how the modern Royal Navy successfully integrated women into  seagoing service, a key example of transformation that has benefitted the Navy, the nation and all those involved.' - Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History, Kings College, London

‘My grandmother Dame Katherine Furse [the Women's Royal Naval Service’s first director]  convinced me that a woman could achieve whatever she set her mind to. Jo Stanley's wonderful book will inspire women worldwide.’ - Hon. Elizabeth Furse, United States Congresswoman (retired)

'The author gives an authoritative and dynamic account of the vital role women in naval uniform have played in the shaping of today’s maritime forces – it is recognition long overdue. She asks the questions, skilfully provides the answers and tells it as it is. For anyone with an interest in things naval and women in particular this is an inspirational book which deserves a place in everyone’s library. An excellent sequel to her previous book ‘From Cabin Boys to Captains’. - Commodore Muriel Hocking RD* Royal Naval Reserve, the first and only woman in command of the RNR and the navy’s first ever female commodore.

‘A meticulously researched tribute to women’s immense contribution to naval service, mirroring their sisters’ with the air force and army.’ - Mary Mackie, author of Wards in the Sky: The RAF's Remarkable Nursing Service

‘Jo Stanley's work is distinguished by the trouble she takes to uncover and explain the "how" and the "why" of women's full integration into the Royal Navy, rather than merely reporting the "what".  Both as a military reference and a social commentary, the end result is important and compelling.’ - Commodore  Carolyn Stait, CBE, Naval Base Commander Clyde (Faslane), 2004-2007

‘Naval Nurses of the QARNNS are respected members of the longest serving women’s service within the Royal Navy. This book shows the evolvement of the Service from the days of the lob-lolly boys who assisted the ship’s surgeon, to the highly trained defence nurse specialists available to serve aboard ship or ashore, home or abroad.’ - Nora Lewis, author of Nursing in the Navy, and former QARNNS Sister

‘The Royal Navy loomed large in my family history. To my delight this book makes clear the enormous but hidden role played by women in the Senior Service life. It is based on sound research and engagingly written and deserves to find a wide audience.' - Dr Susan Rose, lecturer, maritime author, and granddaughter of Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Jellicoe

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.
Series: A History of the Royal Navy

ISBN: 9781780767567
Publication Date: 30 Nov 2017
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 216
Width: 134
Illustrations: 50 bw integ, 16 in 8pp colour plates, 2-3 maps

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