Camden author Ali Farrell’s book, Pretty Rugged, True Stories from Women of the Sea, illustrates the stature women have within the Maine lobster fishery today with striking photographs and the words of lobstering women. Farrell interviewed 26 women who speak eloquently about the paths that led them to become captains of their own lobster boats and what they faced as they pursued their chosen career. The women range in age, including 100-year-old Virginia Oliver of Spruce Head, and come from eighteen different fishing ports.
Farrell’s father fished offshore and her mother produced and sold lobster tanks. She has always felt a connection to the men and women of the lobstering industry. “My father had all kinds of stories from fishing off of Newfoundland, and after talking shop with my female fishermen buddies, I decided they deserved to tell their stories to the world,” she said in a 2020 interview. “It is a very uncommon and unique lifestyle to learn about, especially for those who are from away.”
The book highlights the family histories of the female lobstermen, many of whom first began fishing with their fathers or uncles. The details of their lives, the difficulties of balancing family and work, and the hard rules by which they and all other lobstermen live when at sea are recounted in the women’s own words.
Farrell recently completed a children’s book entitled A Lobster Girl Can, published earlier this year. Pretty Rugged is a coffee table-style book and is available at prettyruggedbooks.com and on Amazon.