Sailing Mid-life's Seas: The Journeys of Voyaging Women
Schaefer, Barbara Anne
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ABSTRACT Title of dissertation: SAILING MID-LIFE'S SEAS: THE JOURNEYS OF VOYAGING WOMEN Barbara A. Schaefer, Doctor of Philosophy, 2003 Dissertation directed by: Professor Francine H. Hultgren Department of Education Policy and Leadership The purpose of this study is to understand the meaning of mid-life women's everyday life as amplified by the experiences of those who have chosen to live on board sailboats. Significant themes are revealed through hermeneutic phenomenological methodology and developed using the powerful metaphor of the sea. Nine women took part in several in-depth conversations with the researcher about their experiences of sailing and living on board a sailboat. Their stories and reflective thoughts, coupled with literary and philosophic sources reveal the deeper meaning of the ordinary experiences of this extraordinary way of being in the world. Voiced by mid-life sailing women, the metaphor of the sea and the ways sailors navigate through "God fearing" forces provide the slate for the writing of this work's main themes The research opens us to a deeper understanding of this phenomenon in such themes as relationships with Nature, others, self and possessions; simplification of life; realization of total freedom; and the reconsideration of women's perceptions of time and place. Through the unique voice of sea women, the knowledge created from within these themes illuminates ways familiar patterns of existence can be opened up to yield new meaning. Through this research we come to know ways in which various educational venues of a lived life can serve as a forum for reshaping women's perspectives and supporting their personal growth. We learn that the mid-life woman's reconsidered images of self as revealed through her lived experience will reshape the ways she interacts in the world. This work is also a personal accounting of the lived experience of the researcher who went to sea in order to experience the life as described by the study's participants. Her voiced echoing of the themes identified by the women in the study brings their meaning to further depth. The lived themes resonate with new meaning as mid-life women come to a new way of thinking about fundamental issues which, in turn, makes them agents of change in a global community.