Joan Druett offers an informed and accessible account of little known stories of wives of whaling captains who accompanied their husbands on long and arduous journeys to bring whale oil and blubber to New England. Surprisingly, by 1850 roughly a sixth of all whaling vessels carried the captains' wives. Invariably the only woman aboard a very cramped ship, they endured harsh conditions to provide companionship for their husbands, and sometimes even exerted a strong unofficial moral influence on a rowdy crew. Joan Druett provides captivating portraits of many of these wives and the difficult circumstances they endured.
Petticoat Whalers, first published in New Zealand in 1991, has been out of print since 1995. The Kendall Whaling Museum's L. Byrne Waterman Award citation states: "It is not insignificant that Petticoat Whalers is already an indispensable classic, and [Druett's] other books and articles have earned the status of Basic Necessities on any well-stocked shelf of maritime narratives and reference works."