History 2129/EnvS 2449 Reading Guide

Coastal and island economies:  onshore fisheries

  • Charles A. Scontras, “Maine Lobstermen and the Labor Movement: The Lobster Fishermen’s International Protective Association, 1907,” Maine Historical Society Quarterly 29:1 (1989), 30-51. (e-reserve) .pdf
  • Edward M. Holmes, “Vinalhaven Lobstermen’s Cooperative, 1938,” Maine Historical Society Quarterly 29:1 (1989), 52-57. (e-reserve)
  • Nancy Payne Alexander, “‘Taking up the Slack’: Penobscot Bay Women and the Netting Industry,” Maine History 45.3 (2010), 259-280. (e-reserve)
  • Wescott, History of Harpswell, review Ch.17, “Commercial Fishing, 1820-1995,” 194-199.
  • Film: Maine Independents: Our Fishing Heritage PBS (1999)


  • What were the benefits for Maine lobstermen of organizing and AFofL Union?  In what ways did their demands coincide with other labor unions (31-34)?  In what ways did they differ (30-31)?  What improved conditions did lobstermen seek?
  • What did the AFofL organizers think of Mainers and of the fishermen?  What were their primary goals and concerns?  What does Scontras mean when he argues that “the lobstermen failed to appreciate the many pressures on the national labor organizers?
  • What did the Lobster Fishermen’s International Protective Associate achieve?  Might their success be due as much to their ability to work collectively as to the influence of former unionized granite workers and the support of the national organization?
  • Why was the fishermen’s labor union short-lived?
  • How and why did island and coastal women (and some men) turn to home manufacture—“putting out work”—after 1860 as a means of earning an income to support their families?
  • What does Alexander mean by a “hidden economy”?
  • Did women on Islesboro turn to fish net working because Vinalhaven women already involved, through the efforts of John Carver, in specialized netting?
  • What evidence does Alexander use to build her description and argument about the development of the netting industry on Islesboro?  What do you make of her causal explanations?
  • Are women’s contributions to the family and community economy a surprise?
  • How does Wescott characterize the inshore fisheries in Harpswell in the century after 1820?