Arthur Ransome Wiki
"Now gender," said Miss Lee (ML14)

Gender is an aspect of classic literature that can sometimes create clashes with modern tastes, including the quest for political correctness and concerns regarding sexism.

This article attempts to list instances where gender is mentioned in Arthur Ransome's works so that scholars, critics and fans may then draw their own conclusions.

Note to contributors: let's give references here as much as possible


Instances of gender-based assignment of tasks:

  • "We women will wash up," said Mrs Barrable, the moment breakfast was over. "And you and Dick can be getting on with things on deck." (CC16 - in defence, It was not what the Admiral called a full-dress washing up.)
  • 'She's a tough little packet is yours,' said Peter Duck, 'and two men and a boy could take her anywheres.' 'What about girls?' said Nancy rather fiercely. 'I don't count captains girls,' said Peter Duck, 'nor mates neither, ... (PD1) Here, Mr Duck implies that the disadvantage of feminine gender is compensated for by attainment of rank in a male hierachy.
  • Dick Callum is the Captain of Scarab even though he is younger than Dot (PM26).


Instances of gender-based choice of activity.


Arthur Ransome seems to deprecate girls' play involving dolls:

  • Dolls meant nothing to Titty. Peter Duck was a great deal more useful than any doll could have been. He could always tidy himself away. He never got lost. He had no sawdust to run out. And she had only to think of him, when there he was ... (SD4)
  • Mrs Dixon recalls that when Mrs Callum had mumps as a girl, her two dolls did too. Dorothea says Mother’s often told us about those two dolls. When Mrs Blackett asks And are you like Nancy and Peggy, not caring about dolls? Dorothea replies I used to like them once .... a long time ago (WH9).


Instances of gender-based exclusion from activities:

  • Dorothea not allowed to stay out late to try to photograph the casting-off of Cachalot: The Admiral had put her foot down. Dorothea was not to be allowed out after dark. "She said ambushes are all right for boys..." (Dorothea Callum, BS27)

Gender in language[]

Examples of spoken or written language that excludes or gives precedence to a gender:

  • "Good luck Nancy. Keep your men together..." (Captain Flint, PD22)
  • Susan, who, as mate, felt herself in charge of the others, for John, though captain, was a boy and not to be counted on in some things (SD2).

Examples of even-handed language:

  • ...each of us was to put her (or his) name on her own works of art. (Nancy, PD Note on Illustrations)
  • "Everybody carries her own grub or his" (Nancy, PM22)
  • "Now everybody rubs her wound in the blood...or his." (Nancy, SW12) (actually there were three males present, John, Roger and Mastodon, not counting Sinbad, and five females, Nancy, Peggy, Susan, Titty and Bridget)
  • "And we might name the landing place after him too. Or her. It'll probably be a her on this ship." (Captain Flint, PD17; actually the ship carried 4 males (Flint, Mr Duck, John, Roger, not counting Gibber or Polly, and 4 females Nancy, Peggy, Susan, Titty - perhaps Flint is conceding that he and Mr Duck have less acute vision than the younger members.)
  • "If one of us is lost both of us are," said Roger. "Because if the one that was lost could see the one that wasn't lost then neither of them would be lost, and if the one that was lost couldn't see the one that wasn't lost, then that one would be lost, too, as well as the one that it couldn't see." (Roger, Swallowdale)

The case for the defence[]

See also[]