Georgia Queen Christened Mary M. Miller

There’s a New Lady in Town!

Former Georgia Queen gets a new berth, new name at Louisville Waterfront Park!

As recently shared by the Waterfront Development Corporation, the new addition to the Belle of Louisville operation, a riverboat formerly known as the Georgia Queen, will be christened the Mary M. Miller in honor of the first woman in the United States to receive a steamboat master’s license. Captain Miller, who paved the way for women to become masters and pilots in the steamboat industry, was born in Louisville in 1846.

Captain Mary Miller had the river in her blood; her father was a steamboat engineer, and in 1865 she married boat builder and operator George Miller. Together, Mary and George operated the Saline, a 178-ton packet boat that carried passengers and freight along the Mississippi and other rivers. A challenge from competitors that George was acting as both master and pilot on the boat (which was illegal) led George to confess that Mary was acting as the master by overseeing daily operations and the boat’s fiscal matters, and that she would be applying for a master’s license forthwith.

The Steamboat Inspection Service (SIS) in New Orleans, unable to deal with this unprecedented situation, referred the matter to SIS Headquarters in Washington, DC, which brought national attention to the issue. In February 1884, The Secretary of the Treasury ruled that if Mary M. Miller was fit to perform the duties, she should be awarded her license regardless of gender. She was named a captain on February 16, 1884. On the same day an editorial and cartoon ran in the national publication Harper’s Weekly. The editorial championed women’s rights and supported the commissioning of women as steamboat captains. Read more on the Waterfront Development Corporation blog!