Virginia Oliver – The Lobster Lady

By Wendy Mitman Clarke.

At daybreak, rumbling through a greasy little swell, the 30-foot Virginia makes her way from Rockland, Maine, for the lobster grounds. Backlit by the chartplotter’s glow the helmsman is steady at the wheel, while behind him, a small, almost Yoda-like figure hunches over the sorting table readying bait. Tucked inside a black Grundéns jacket, her grey hair a tousled tuft, Virginia Oliver is back at work.

This might not seem particularly significant; lots of women work as sternmen or captains in Maine’s lobster industry. But only one of them has been out on this water for nine decades. Now 100 years old, having celebrated that milestone birthday in June, Virginia sees little reason to slow down her routine of working alongside her 76-year-old son, Max, catching lobsters.

“I have 200 pots of my own, and he can have 600 but he usually has 250 or something like that,” she says. “We usually set out in June or the end of May, and we try to have them all hauled out by the first of November. I don’t want to go anymore when there’s ice on the boat and all that. I don’t have to.”