When whalemen were home between voyages, many a whirlwind courtship took place. It was generally those men headed for officers' berths or those with few other options, who once again answered the call of the sea. Although most of the ordinary crewmembers were young and not yet married, the wives of the older men on board (the skilled hands in the steerage and the other officers) were likely to be just as lonely as the captains’ wives. Whalemen’s wives were crucial since the demands of single parent households required more attention and energy in the absence of husbands and fathers. The captains' wives were often more economically secure, but the emotional emptiness remained regardless of crew status.
The most fortunate wives who stayed behind had the benefits of a familiar home, with friends and families to support them. Young brides usually stayed with their relatives, while older women rented rooms or a house for themselves and their children if they didn’t own a home. They all worked hard at raising families, running businesses, maintaining households, and literally "keeping the home fires burning."
Library of Congress