The Sea Captain’s Wife

A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century

Published by W. W. Norton

The Sea Captain’s Wife brings readers into the extraordinary world of Eunice Connolly. Born white and poor in New England, Eunice followed her first husband to the Deep South and soon found her relatives fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. Back in New England, Eunice and her children struggled to get by—until Eunice fell in love with a well-to-do black sea captain, married him, and moved to his home in the British Caribbean. Tracking every lead in a collection of 500 family letters, Hodes retraced Eunice’s footsteps and met descendants along the way. The Sea Captain’s Wife takes up grand themes of American history—war, racism, freedom—and along the way illuminates the lives of ordinary people in the past. For more information on The Sea Captain’s Wife, click here.


Finalist, Lincoln Book PrizeCivil War Institute and Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Best Books of the YearLibrary Journal

“Hodes is the rare scholar who can present historical research for mainstream readers.” The story “comes surprisingly, and movingly, alive.”Entertainment Weekly

“Recognized for honorable mention by the Lincoln Prize judges is The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race and War in the Nineteenth Century, by New York University history professor Martha Hodes. She has done an extraordinary job of writing the story of an ordinary New England woman who was a prolific letter writer and who made unusual decisions for her time. . . . The author does a masterful job of interweaving and layering the quotations with observations of the times and the places where Connolly lived.”Washington Post

“Few researchers have the imagination or tenacity to reconstruct a lost life as carefully as Hodes has done. . . . an absorbing account of a life reclaimed from obscurity.”Times Literary Supplement, London

“I felt as if I were about to open a box of treasure.” Hodes “pieces together a fascinating story.”Christian Science Monitor

A “remarkable history. . . . In compelling prose, Hodes captures Eunice’s financial struggles and desire for a stable home. . . . Highly recommended.”Choice Reviews

Best Books of 2006 “Hodes delicately unwraps papers left by Eunice Connolly, a mid-19th-century New England working-class woman who led the kind of life usually lost to history. Connolly ultimately married a black sea captain of the British West Indies and in that unconventional act found an interlude of stability. Both the biography of an unexamined and unexamining woman and an account of mapping her tempest-tossed life.”Library Journal

“The fascinating true story of an impoverished 19th-century white widow who defies convention to marry a wealthy black sea captain. . . . Her story will fascinate you.”Literary Guild

“The story is fascinating . . . . a rewarding and absorbing read.”The Times, London, on-line

“An incredible story.”New England Quarterly

“A page-turning tour de force, The Sea Captain’s Wife captures the fragility, volatility, and vitality of everyday life in the United States.” A “splendid book.”Reviews in American History

Recommended reading in biography and memoir. “An unusual story from the time of the American Civil War -- the life of Eunice Connolly, born to a poor family in New England, whose husband died in the fighting. With the help of a cache of family letters, Hodes tells how Eunice met and married a black sea captain and moved with him to his home in the West Indies.”Publishing News, London

“Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly’s life is a road map to learning about 19th-century America. . . . Those who love books about history will revel in the book’s detail.”Cape Cod Times

A “touching and captivating story.”San Antonio Express-News, Indianapolis Star, Berkshire Eagle, and Mobile News

“Hodes vividly tells of the life of Eunice Connolly, born white and poor in New England, who lost a husband and a brother on opposite sides of the Civil War, became well acquainted with despair, and yet fetched up as a genteel lady in an elite family of color in the Cayman Islands.”Harvard Magazine

Hodes’s “remarkable new book . . . resourcefully gathers scraps of evidence to stitch together the hard-scrabble life of one white woman.” A “gripping tale of a courageous, resilient and unconventional woman.”Raleigh News and Observer, Sunday Arts & Entertainment

“Told by award-winning historian Martha Hodes, Eunice Connolly’s story will fascinate you.”Book-of-the-Month Club

A “remarkable, true-life story of misfortune and defiance. . . . a rich tapestry of women’s lives in the middle of a turbulent century--and a moving story of a love that defied convention.”Quality Paperback Book Club

Featured in “New Paperbacks For Readings Groups,” Bookpage, October 2007 A “beautifully rendered biography” that tells “a fascinating story”... a “compelling and authentic recreation” of a life.

A “beautifully written book. . . . a remarkably complex biography of a woman who should have fallen through the cracks of history.”Journal of American History

“To date, the most important microhistorical studies have dealt with European figures and events. But a recent book by New York University historian Martha Hodes about ‘an ordinary woman who led an extraordinary life’ transports the methodology to this side of the Atlantic. . . . As singular as it is, the microhistory of her life is broadly, illuminating. It sheds light on the complex (indeed, bewildering) macrohistory of 19th-century racial categorization.”Ottawa Citizen

“An excellent history of a family as well as a time.”Civil War News

“As a scholarly achievement, this book is outstanding. It is no less impressive as a gripping human interest story.”International Journal of Maritime History

Written “with the historian’s skill and a story-teller’s flare . . . . A richly detailed look at an ordinary woman’s experience. Fascinating reading. . . . Recommended!”The Bookbag, UK

A “masterfully written narrative biography complete with intrigue, suspense, and fastidous detail regarding nineteenth-century life.”

Featured in Reading Room: “Martha Hodes uncovers the extraordinary life of a Civil War-era woman.”Princeton Alumni Weekly

“Hodes’ book . . . is a monument both to a woman who otherwise would have been utterly lost to history and to the historian’s ability to do justice to the dead. . . . The Sea Captain’s Wife shows us how powerful an ordinary life can be in the hands of an extraordinary storyteller.”Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter

“Why would a white Yankee woman in the Civil War era marry a black Caribbean man? The answer is, for wealth and prestige. Counterintuitive though that may be, that’s exactly what happened to Eunice Stone, and the tale of how she came to do that and how her life and that of her children changed as a result is a riveting tale. . . . Readers, have at it.”History Wire: Book Alert

“. . . reads like a novel. . . . Hodes expertly brings the struggles and vindication of an obscure woman to light, giving the reader an intimate view into the extraordinary lives of everyday people.”Journal of American Folkore

Fascintating reading.”Radio 2GB Book Club, 873AM, Sydney, Australia

“. . . a detective story, a history of the period and a travelogue all rolled into one. I enjoyed this book immensely. It is thought provoking, a pleasure to read, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend.” Nautical Magazine, UK

“A biography hard to put down.”Midwest Book Review

Daily Book Pick on December 5, 2006Jim Agnew’s Literary Website

A marvelous book. It is brilliantly researched and beautifully written. With unerring artistry, Martha Hodes leads us through her archives and into the fascinating story of an American family.”Ann Fabian, author of The Unvarnished Truth

“Few of history’s secrets remain as stubbornly hidden as family secrets, but few reveal more about our culture. And few historians equal Martha Hodes as a detective and storyteller. To find a white woman who married a black man after the Civil War, she dogs cold trails from New Hampshire to Alabama to the Caribbean. With extraordinary sensitivity, Hodes persuades old documents and living descendants to give up this heartbreaking and unsettling story. Without ever telling us how to feel about it, Hodes unobtrusively supplies context and insight, giving The Sea Captain’s Wife the pacing and sweep of an epic film.”Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers

“A wonderful book, marvelously researched in so many directions and clearly and lovingly written. It makes an important contribution to the history of the time, with links to the present.”Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre

Selection, Book of the Month Club, Literary Guild, and Quality Paperback Book Club