Mermaids Ashore: The Norwegian Mermaid Association, 1964–1989

By Stig Tenold and Bård Gram Økland, published April 2019


This article analyses a sometimes forgotten dimension of maritime history: the lives and challenges of those remaining at home. Based on archival data and interviews, we discuss the establishment, growth, decline and dissolution of the Norwegian Mermaid Association (Norges Havfrueforbund), an organization of seamen’s wives. We place the history of the association in a broader context, and analyse the manner in which it operated. From its establishment in 1964 until its demise in 1989, the Norwegian Mermaid Association combined two purposes. Locally, the associations became meeting places for seafarers’ wife, playing an important social role and helping them structure their daily life. These social support networks united women with common concerns and challenges, and also offered solutions such as childminding and home helps. At the national level, the Norwegian Mermaid Association gave seafarer families a voice in the public debate, and the organization became recognized as an interest group in questions of seafaring policy. It was consulted on maritime matters and represented seafarers’ families in government-appointed committees. The Norwegian Mermaid Association provides an insight into the lives, concerns and politics of seamen’s wives. Due to the strong reduction in the number of Norwegian sailors following the shipping crisis, the rationale for its existence disappeared in the late 1980s.

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Filed under: Other (Twentieth C)
Subjects include: Administration | Miscellaneous

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