Women often formed deep relationships with each other during these times. They shared work, belongings and entertainment. Group activities like quilting bees meant that they were regularly in and out of each other’s homes. For some of these wives, those visits sometimes lasted as long as days or weeks.
Support during childbirth, care for the young and the elderly as well as the sick, all required cooperative efforts. A fee might be paid to a doctor who made a home visit, but it was close friends, family or neighbors who provided continuity of care, without expecting to be paid.
Women without sufficient financial support turned to religious organizations or their communities for assistance. On Nantucket, the Society of Friends (Quakers) collected from their membership to help those in need. Other families might be given firewood or other forms of poor relief by the town officials. Most whaling families relied on the husbands’ local credit for goods and services, although it was rarely enough to sustain households during long absences.