Euskal Itsas Museoa

Women and the sea


From January 29 to November 19, 2016

Own produced temporary exhibition disclosed to the audience to refer the connection between the women and the sea through history. We could not forget the place of that imagery and mythology of the maritime world has had since the ancient times. The exhibition offered and tackles the issue from a global view, even though carefully treat with the special regard the Basque Coast.

Women's relationship with the sea has been intense and diverse down through history. As far as the maritime economy is concerned, women have contributed their work and their organisational capacity throughout the centuries. Their work has also covered key social areas in the seafaring and fishing communities. Even though there is no doubt of the importance of the women's involvement in maritime activities, there is undeniably a shortfall in the public recognition of their contribution.

Since ancient times, numerous myths and beliefs, some of which endure today, endorse the connection between women and the sea. One of the most widespread taboos was the bad luck that would come from having women onboard and, despite that, they were on the ships that set sail to the Americas in the 16th century.

Women sailed the seas either as companions or wearing men's garments –to hide the fact they were women–, and even as pirates. And women's involvement in maritime businesses, in shipbuilding, in privateer activity or in the fisheries should not be overlooked.

Women's work has mainly been in the fishing and port areas. While the bateleras or boatwomen, the sirgueras as the women who pulled the towropes of the barges up the river banks were known, and the cargueras, who transported the cod from the boats to the warehouses, were paid on a piecework basis in the ports, women in fishing communities divided their time between looking after their homes, their families and their livelihoods with very different types of work: shell-fishing, repairing fishing gear, the work of unloading, auctioning and selling the fish and manual work in the canneries...

Social changes have meant new challenges for women to achieve an equal footing in the recreational and work activities that had previously been closed to them. They are now serving members of the merchant and armed navies, they hold key management posts in companies and fishermen's associations and they actively participate in surfing, rowing and sailing competitions.

The exhibition was organized by José María Unsain and Soco Romano, and has the historical advice of Olga Macias, a professor of the UPV( University of Basque Country). Elena Odriozola, National Illustration Award 2015, was been the author of the graphic design of the exhibition.

The exhibition consists of prints, paintings, photographs, votive offerings, archaeological material, clothing, posters, amulets, books, leaflet, magazines and audiovisual and display panels. These materials come from the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, Koldo Mitxelena Kulturunea and the funds recovered by the Untzi Museoa-Museo Naval over the years that preserved in Gordailua. It also has loans from other centers: San Telmo Museoa, Basque Museum of Bilbao, Kutxa Fundazioa, Fine Arts Museum of Alava, etc. Works from private collections will also be exhibited. The works can be emphasized are by Aurelio Arteta, Julio Caro Baroja, Ramon de Zubiaurre, Dario de Regoyos or Dora Salazar, among others.

The exhibition is organized according to the following thematic sections:

  • Sirens, Virgin Maries and Witches
  • Women and vessels
  • Pirates and privateers
  • Port work: bateleras, cargueras and sirgueras
  • About fishing
  • Sea bathing
  • Water sports

This exhibition is part of the "Conversations" program of DSS2016EU.

The exhibition is sponsored by Kutxa Fundazioa. 

Diffusion material 

Photo gallery



Tuesday to Saturday:
10:00 - 14:00 and 16:00 - 19:00

Sundays and public holidays:
11:00 - 14:00
16.00 - 19.00 (from 15th of june to 15th of september)

December 24 and 31:
10:00 - 14:00

Closed on Mondays. Closed January 1, 6 and 20, and December 25.

Ticket prices, groups, how to arrive...