Women on the Waterfront

Virginia Oliver is somewhat of a celebrity in these parts

Sat, 03/26/2022 - 10:30am

    On the anniversary of the 60th year celebrating Windjammers Days and maritime history, we pay homage to our founder, Captain Marion Dash for her contribution as a female role model in our maritime community. It is her legacy that has inspired the Friends of Windjammer Days to celebrate the women who are working on the waterfront today who in turn inspire young girls and future maritime generations to come.

    Most people know her as the oldest lobster fisher in the state and some say - the world. Born in 1920 and raised in Rockland, Maine, Virginia grew up lobstering with her father and brother. She learned how to pilot a boat when she was just a spunky seven-year-old girl.

    At 101, Ginny (as she is called by her friends) and her son Max go out three days a week in season. They gear up the boat, put on their bibs, and motor out to the fishing grounds. Max hauls the traps while Virginia measures and bands the keepers. Virginia Oliver has more energy than most half her age. Max describes her, "She's going all the time, she never stops. Always been that way. It makes me tired sometimes just thinking about it.

    Mrs. Oliver was a stay at home mom raising four children until Max turned nine. She then went to work at a Rockland Printing Plant for 19 years until one day she had had enough. Virginia tells the story of that day when her husband, Bill, came home from lobstering and saw her hanging laundry. "He asked me, 'I thought you went to work?' I told him, 'I did. I just quit. I'm going with you.' And so I did." Thus began the next chapter of her life back out on the water. After Bill died at age 90, Virginia carried on lobstering with her son Max.

    Through foul weather, angry seas and pea soup fog, nothing deters this "Lobster Lady" as she is affectionately known around town. "Sometimes I've gotten wet to the gills, but I never get seasick. I like doing it, I like being along the water and so I'm going to keep on doing it just as long as I can."

    Max, the youngest of her four children (who range in age from 78 to 83) says admirably "She's worked hard her whole life. She's a great mom."

    For as much as Virginia loves the salt and sea, it appears the salt and sea have been good to her in return. If you catch one of the many video interviews made about her recently, you will see it in the way she glows when she speaks about being on the water, and you will hear it in her wonderfully infectious laugh, "I always wear my earrings to haul." she says as she grins. "I always wear my lipstick and things just like I was going up street somewhere."

    At home in rubber boots, work gloves, earrings and lipstick on a rocking boat in the ocean, Virginia Oliver's fierce independence and seafarer elegance will not only inspire you but will also warm your heart.