People who see little value in a book's subject should not be writing the book. I really felt as if the author had been told he should write this book after he finished his other on the Great Lakes, but he didn't think it was that valuable.
I thought it was a good point to make at the beginning of the book that there were very few women on the great lakes in the positions he was going to talk about the rest of the book, and therefore they could by no means be seen as normal, or even as having a large impact on the lakes. Fine. But he repeats this and similar throughout the book. I realize these aren't "normal" stories--that's why they are unique!
He also goes out of his way to repeatedly mention that there are differences between what was expected of males and females in the same position. (Women didn't have to wear the lighthouse keeper's uniforms--he didn't say if they were allowed to if they wanted to, since they probably involved pants!). And most of the lighthouse keepers who were female inherited it from their husbands. Oh, and the "logical" solution (and not modified by 'by the thinking of the time' which several of his comments are) to having a woman being unable to be both assistant and a consummate housekeeper was to hire a male assistant. Wouldn't it be cheaper to hire a maid?
His section on cooks was also frustrating. He says female cooks were preferred. But then other things he says implies only at some times. He makes a fuss about insecure sailor's wives objecting and the captain fooling around with the cook. Then he tosses out that a lot of the female cooks were the wives of the captain of the boat and provided unpaid labor to keep costs down. It sounds like the latter is more common than having an actual hired female, but he spends his time babbling about hired female cooks with few concrete examples.
I also don't understand why some of the women were included. One of them was a passenger who happened to survive a sinking by standing on a wheel. That isn't a woman who was in control or such--it was a bystander who happened to live. Nothing heroic or otherwise--but he found a newspaper story about her, so in it went.
What he _didn't_ cover, despite declaring it to be the standard, what what women did on the shores of the great lakes. If those on the boats are unique (and it pains the author to give them more than a footnote) then give some specifics of those on shore. He had one, who rescued a boat of sailors, but otherwise dismissed them. Despite their influence not being a "negligible" (as the unusual women's were) part of Great Lakes history.
I had high hopes for this book, and some of the women discussed were fascinating. But the author's bias against the subject matter's worthwhileness came through too strongly, and his choice of subjects seemed fairly random to me.
So, an interesting bit of history, but not as well written as should have been.