View of the Mary H. Nye, Dry and Fancy Goods shop, on Centre Street, with Mary posed in the doorway, c. 1880s.
In the early and middle years of the 19th century, the preponderance of women merchants, selling everything from daily necessities to exotic goods, gave Centre Street the nickname “Petticoat Row.” Generally, in the 19th century, women’s roles became increasingly confined to the home as the shortage of male labor was overcome. But on Nantucket, whaling husbands were away for long stretches— as long as five years—and the dangers of whaling often left women widows. The Quaker influence, which valued competence of all sorts in women, and hard work and thrift in everyone, was crucial as well.
Image number: F1756
Credit: Nantucket Historical Association