Over the past 95 years, from June to September, Virginia Oliver has been waking at 3:30 a.m. hauling heavy loads of lobster from the icy waters off the coast of Maine.
The woman, who turned 103 in June, started lobstering when she was eight, and as one of the first women to tackle the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, she is now believed to be the oldest.
Keep reading to learn more about this inspiring Lobster Lady!
Virginia Oliver, affectionately known as the “Lobster Lady,” is a bit of a celebrity in her hometown of Rockland, Maine.
The 103-year-old is featured in a short documentary called Conversations with the Lobster Lady, she’s the main subject of “The Lobster Lady,” a children’s book, and she’s been lobstering since 1928.
The spunky centenarian, who’s been catching lobsters since before the Great Depression, lives in a house down the same street where she was born on June 6, 1920.
“All my life, I’ve done this kind of thing. I never get seasick,” Oliver told the Washington Post.
“Everywhere I go, people stop me and talk to me, and say they saw me on TV and all that.”
Oliver hit the water with her big brother and father when she was only eight.
“We used to go every day,” said Oliver, whose father was a lobster dealer.
In the 30-minute documentary, that follows her at home and on the boat, Oliver said, “When I started with lobsters, no women ever went, no women. Now, you know there’s quite a few women…that was just the way I lived.”
As she grew up, Oliver was immersed in her family’s lobstering life, catching and selling the large-clawed crustaceans from the waters off Maine, one of the largest producers of the American lobster.
She even married a fellow fisherman Max Oliver, whom she spent 61 years on a boat, hauling heavy loads of lobster.
“He told everybody I was the boss,” said Oliver, a mother of four, three whom became lobstermen. After Max died in 2006, their son Max Jr., now 80, joins her during lobstering season from June to September. With Oliver piloting her late husband’s boat, named “Virginia” in her honor, the mother and son drop about 200 traps each.
“I love being with my son,” she said, adding that she wakes up around 3:30 a.m. on lobstering days. She adds that she “always wears earrings to haul…and I always wear my lipstick just like I was going to go up the street.”
In addition to stering the boat and hauling traps, Oliver measures the lobsters and bands their claws. She’s been bitten a few times by the lobsters, but it was a crab that proved to be a worthy opponent.
While collecting crabs, one clutched her finger and snipped it, leading to seven stitches. “The doctor said, ‘what are you doing out there anyways?’ And I said, ‘well that’s because I want to go.’” She adds, “[the doctor] really made me mad.”
Over the past almost century, Oliver has seen a dramatic change in the lobster landscape.
While there’s been a rise of women out on the water, there’s been a decline of lobsters, that thrive in in icy conditions.
Rising ocean temperatures are forcing lobster populations to move to colder waters north of Maine, threatening her family’s livelihood and overall marine sustainability.
“When my husband was with me, there were more lobsters than there are now,” Oliver said, adding she, along with other fishermen, are very conscious of catching to maintain the marine population.
No plans for retirement
Oliver doesn’t just catch them she also loves eating lobster. She says her favorite lobster roll recipe is “Maine lobster, a grilled bun, a little mayo, and nothing else.”
And though age has slowed her down a little bit, she now goes three days each week instead of five, “I don’t want to go five days, you know that’s a regular job and I don’t need that.”
“You’re not going to live forever, so why let it bother you,” she quips. “I’m pretty independent, I keep getting older though.”
Asked when she plans on retiring, she replied, “When I die.”
Virginia Oliver is such an inspiration!
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