Mary Lacy – Wikipedia

Mary Lacy

Born 1740
Died 1801
Nationality British
Known for First woman to complete a shipwright’s apprenticeship

Notable work

“The Female Shipwright”

Mary Lacy (c. 1740 – 1801) was a British sailor, shipwright and memoirist. She was arguably the first woman to have been given an exam and a pension from the British Admiralty as a shipwright.

Early life[edit]

Lacy was born in Wickham, Kent in 1740.[1] She became a domestic servant, aged twelve.[1] In 1759, aged nineteen, Lacy ran away from home dressed as a boy.[2] Using the name William Chandler, Lacy worked as a servant for a ship’s carpenter of the British navy.[2] William was her father’s name and Chandler was her mother’s maiden name.[3] She then studied as an apprentice to be a shipwright in 1763, going on to successfully complete the apprenticeship.[2] In 1770, she took her exam as a shipwright, arguably the first woman to have done so. In 1771, however, she was forced to stop working because of her rheumatism, and applied for a pension from the Admiralty under her legal name, Mary Lacy, which was granted. She published her memoirs The Female Shipwright in 1773.[3] This was reprinted by the National Maritime Museum in 2008.

Later life[edit]

On 25 October 1772, at St Mary Abbots, Kensington,[4] Mary Lacy married Josias Slade, a shipwright, of Deptford, Kent.[5] That same year, Mary gave birth to her first child,[6] Margaret Lacey Slade, who was baptized at St Nicholas, Deptford, Kent, on 29 August.[7] Their other children were Josias Slade (1775–1777), Mary Slade (1777–1777), Josias Slade (1778–1781), Elizabeth Slade (1780–1780), and John Slade (born 1784).[8]

In 1775 Mary petitioned for her husband to be granted a servant because of his 16 years’ service as a shipwright.[9] She had also applied unsuccessfully before Lord Sandwich for her husband to succeed Thomas Boyles, who lined the stuff for the Sawyers at the dockyard.[9]

Mary died in 1801 and was buried at St Paul’s, Deptford, Kent, on 3 May 1801.[10][7] Her husband, Josias Slade, died in 1814 and was also buried at St Paul, Deptford, Kent, on 13 February 1814.[11] In his will and codicil, he only mentions his son, John Slade, and daughter, Margaret, now wife of Joseph Ward[12] (Margaret Lacey Ward died the following year and was buried at St Paul, Deptford, Kent, on 23 April 1815).[11]

A chapter in Suzanne Stark’s book Female Tars: Women Aboard Ship in the Age of Sail features Lacy’s life in eighteenth century England.[3]

Published works[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wheelwright, Julie (2020). Sisters in Arms: Female warriors from antiquity to the new millennium. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781472838018.
  2. ^ a b c “Mary Lacy (b. 1740)”. Bodleian Treasures: Sappho to Suffrage. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Hathaway, Nate. “A Famous Woman Shipwright Invoked in New Boatbuilding Scholarship at The Apprenticeshop – Maine Women Magazine”. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  4. ^ Index record by West Middlesex Family History Society on
  5. ^ digitized image from London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597–1921 on
  6. ^ digitized image of General Evening Post (London, England), July 31, 1773 – August 3, 1773 from Seventeenth – Eighteenth Century Burney collection newspapers from Gale Cengage Learning
  7. ^ a b digitized image from London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538–1812 on
  8. ^ digitized images of baptisms and burials from London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538–1812 on
  9. ^ a b index record ADM 106/1231/171 from The National Archives (UK)
  10. ^ Genealogists’ Magazine, Vol. 22, No. 11, September 1988, page 403
  11. ^ a b index record from England, Select Deaths and Burials, 1538–1991 on
  12. ^ digitized image from England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384–1858 on