I wanted to expand on this blog post first, because I didn’t have such a straightforward way of coming up with a topic. I mean, it did sort of start that way, but not quite.
People who have followed this blog know I’m from the greater New Bedford area – I’ve talked about that before. I’ve also talked about my work with Dr. Miller, my internship at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and my love for the Charles W. Morgan.
I wanted to use my thesis as a chance to expand on my work in New Bedford – to sort of prove that all this research I’ve been doing was leading up to something of my own. I didn’t want my random details about the whaling industry to be for naught!
I remembered thinking about one of my assignments in the research library, when I was reading about the Howlands. I was really interested in their relationship, mainly because of how important the Howlands were to the city both during and after whaling. In all my time in whaling, I’d almost forgotten that New Bedford was an actual city – that people lived here all the time, that there were so many other things going on. And reading about Rachel Howland – the wife of Matthew Howland and the “queen” of New Bedford society – gave me the opportunity to start thinking about the community as a whole. The city was completely transformed by the whaling industry, and while it’s practically defined by it today, I wondered the rest of society apart from those directly involved in the industry handled the changes it brought.
Keeping that in mind, I started looking into New Bedford society, though my initial thesis proposal focused a lot more on women & the whaling industry than I now have planned. With a little bit of digging around and help from a lot of historians, I was able to take what I was interested in bring it in a new light.