Rebecca Anne Johnston came from Whitby. She was bound by her stepfather as a seven-year apprentice on a collier ship, but deserted after four years and was found living on the streets dressed as a sailor. The stepfather had also bound her mother to a ship where she died during the bombardment of Copenhagen.
Colonist, Volume XXVII, Issue 4355, 22 January 1886, Page 4
WOMEN WHO HAVE BECOME SAILORS.
In the reign of George III. an Irishwoman named Hannah Whitney served for five years in the Royal British Navy, and kept her secret so well that she was not known to be a woman until she retired from the service.
A few years later, a young Yorkshire girl walked from Hull to London in search of her lover. She found him enlisted on His Majesty's man-of-war Oxford, and thereupon she donned a sailor's suit, assumed the name of Charley Waddell, and enlisted on the same ship. Her lover, not being as faithful to her as she to him, deserted the ship, and in attempting to follow his example she was arrested and her sex discovered. The officers raised a contribution for her, and she was dismissed from the service and sent home.
In 1802, a Mrs. Cola became somewhat famous by serving on board a man of war as a common sailor. She afterwards resumed her proper attire and opened a coffee house for sailors.
In 1800, a girl of 15 tried to ship at London on board a South Sea whaler, and being refused, she put on boy's clothes, hired herself to a waterman, and became very skilful in rowing. She did not learn to swim, however, and one day the boat capsizing, she was nearly drowned. In this crisis her sex was discovered, and she ceased to be "jolly young waterman," and became a dometic servant in her proper apparel.
Another girl, aged 14, named Elizabeth Bowden, being left an orphan, went up to London in 1807 from a village in Cornwall, in search of employment. She, did not succeed in finding such work as she desired, and putting on male attire, she walked to Falmouth, and enlisted as "boy" on board his Majesty's ship of war Hazand, and did good service aloft and beowv Her sex was finally discovered, however, and by the kindness of the officers the poor girl was placed in a proper position.
Still another, named Rebecca Ann Johnston, had a cruel father, who dressed her as a boy when she was 18 years of age and apprenticed her to a collier ship where she served for lour years.
In 1814, when the British war vessel Queen Charlotte was being paid off, a negro woman was found among the crew, who had served eleven years under the name of William Brown, and had become so expert a sailor that she was promoted to the captain of the foretop. She had all the peculiarities of a good sailor, and had kept her secret so well that none suspected her real sex.