Mary Garretson Miller

Born: 1846

Died: October 30, 1894

Mary Garretson married Captain George Miller when she was 19 years old. George built a small steamer in 1883 which he named the Saline. He and Mary piloted the steamer along small rivers and tributaries to pick up cargoes that the bigger steam ships could not access. Mary assisted George and learned how to handle the boat and act as clerk. When George became ill, Mary would sometimes pilot the boat. The crew of a rival steamer submitted a complaint that a woman had no right to be master of a boat. So Mary went through the legal channels to get her license as master. After passing the examinations and proving her ability to handle the boat local inspectors approved her application; however, as the application went up the chain of command and it reached the Solicitor of the Treasury in Washington, he denied the application because she was woman. ("Her Claim" 1883) A couple months later the decision was reversed. Mary Miller arrived in New Orleans on February 18, 1884 to receive her regular Captain's license. This authorized her to act as master of the Saline with permission to navigate the Mississippi, Red, Quachita and other rivers.("Capt." 1884) She was the first woman in the United States to become a licensed steamboat captain.


"Capt. Mary M. Miller Dead." Courier - Journal, October 31, 1894, 2.
"Capt. Mary M. Miller Licensed." New York Times, February 19, 1884.
"First Woman Steamboat Master: Death of Capt. Mary M. Miller - How She Got Her License." New York Times, November 6, 1894.
"Her Claim Not Recognized: A Woman Who Wanted a License as a Steam-Boat Captain." New York Times, December 7, 1883.