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Mary Greene, Female River Pilot

-From the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, Feb. 3, 1896; p. 2


Mrs. Gordon Green Tells of Her Experience on the River.

Since Mrs. Gordon Green, wife of Captain Green, of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh packet, H. K. Bedford, took out papers making her a fully authorized pilot on the river between Pittsburgh and Marietta, there has been much interest in the incident. The Pittsburgh Post prints an interview with Mrs. Green, in the course of which she tells her story as follows:

"Well, it was very easy: you see, I spend a good bit of time in the pilot house with the captain — my husband, you know — and it is only natural that I should get to know the river. Of course, he took a great deal of pains to show me everything and often let me try my hand at managing the boat. In the course of the five years of our married life I have seen a great deal of the river, and it seems very natural that I should learn something of it. It requires only a good memory to know the channel, and, as for learning to ring the bells, and how to handle the boat, that is comparatively easy.

"You see, we have never gone to housekeeping yet. This boat has been my home ever since the captain and I were married, and I nearly always stand watch with him. Five years as a 'striker' ought to qualify almost anyone for a pilot, even if they had a less able and willing instructor than I had."

"But do you like the river? Is your floating home as pleasant as one on the bank would be?" asked the reporter.

"Oh, yes. I like the river ever so much. The captain has to be with his boat nearly all the time, and if we were keeping house we would be practically separated. Then I have very nice rooms here, and when I want to get away from the passengers I can retire to them. There is a constant change of scene, which is very agreeable, and then one is always meeting so many people that one knows. A great deal of my time is spent in the pilot house though, and altogether, I think it very nice to live on a boat."

"Do you intend to stand a regular watch on the boat?" queried the reporter.

"No, indeed; I didn't get my license for that. We have a pilot and Mr. Green stands one watch, so there is no necessity for my doing anything of the kind. I wanted my license because I felt that I was entitled to it. Then I can help the captain when he is on watch, or take the wheel for awhile for amusement if I like. If we should be left without a pilot for a time I could take a turn in the pilot house until we could get someone else. That is all the piloting I expect to do."

"But don't you find it hard work?"

"Oh, it is easy to handle the Bedford. It is a small boat, you know, and by being careful I have no trouble. Sometimes the wheel throws me around a little, but I always manage to keep it under control."

"Are we to infer from your entering the ranks of pilots that you look with favor on the new woman idea?"

"Several of my friends have asked me that since I got my license," she said, laughing. "I always tell them that I don't bother much about such stuff. I am contented to be just what I am, a woman, in the good old-fashioned way. I don't think there is anything unwomanly or advanced in my being able to steer a boat, and I am contented to let the captain do the voting for the family."

The captain has a far higher opinion of his wife's abilities than she has herself. In response to a query as to whether he was not a little proud of his new pilot, he straightened himself up, and said in a way that was eloquent of his earnest sincerity:

"You bet I am."

Mrs. Greene was Miss Mary Becker before her marriage, and her home is on Little Muskingum creek six miles from Marietta. Her father was the proprietor of a prosperous country store, and before Captain Greene won her, at the age of twenty-two, she had proved herself a shrewd business woman. One of her brothers is a prominent physician of Cincinnati, and the family are at least well-to-do.

Mrs. Greene is the only woman who ever took out her initial license at the Pittsburgh office. Mrs. Callie French, however, renewed her papers as pilot at this port last year. She is the wife of the proprietor of the French's show boat, and is said to be the best pilot that ever turned the wheel on the Ruth, the little craft that pushes the show up and down the rivers. Mrs. T. P. Leathers is licensed as a pilot at the New Orleans office, and stands a regular watch on her husband's boat, the T. P. Leathers, running out of New Orleans. A Mrs. Miller, formerly held a pilot's license at Cincinnati, but is not now on the river. Mrs. Ben Young, of Cincinnati, holds a master's license, and spends her time on her husband's boat, the Lee H. Brooks.

When the H. K. Bedford left the harbor Friday afternoon, Mrs. Greene was in the pilot house, and her husband stood on the roof watching her clever manipulation of the big pilot wheel. As it spun around and the Bedford rounded out into the stream, he looked as well satisfied as if he owned the whole river.

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