Women’s Labour and British Naval Hospitals and Hospital Ships 1775-1815

During the thirty-five years of almost constant warfare between the start of the American Revolution and the end of the Napoleonic War, naval medicine relied on the labour of thousands of women as nurses and washerwomen to care for sick and wounded seamen in hospitals and on hospital ships. This paper will use pay list records from Haslar and Plymouth Naval Hospitals, as well as hospital ship musters and log books, to illustrate the role of women at these medical institutions. I highlight the important and omnipresent role of women in naval medical care while also considering the impact of female civilian labour in supporting eighteenth-century British imperial and naval ascendency.