THE AUTHOR

I was born in Chicago, Illinois.

I became an avid sailor there in the 1980s. With a life long interest in history, it didn’t take me long to combine that with my newfound love of sailing. This began my lasting and ongoing passion for maritime history.

1993 auto accident

After completing my first year of law school at Georgetown University in Washington DC, I sustained a severe back injury in an auto accident. After a year of being completely homebound, except for my excursions to physiotherapy, my doctor prescribed a reclining wheelchair for me. Although it would return some of my former freedom to me, I was sad about requiring such a device in my life.

My wheelchair launching party!

In order to overcome that sadness, and to celebrate the arrival of my wheelchair, I decided to have a wheelchair launching party. No one amongst my friends and family had ever heard of such a thing! I wanted to keep the event as much like the launching of a ship as possible. This meant I needed a name for my wheelchair so I could ‘christen’ her with champagne.

1920 America’s Cup Resolute 

A Herreshoff designed yacht, named Resolute, took part in the 1920 America’s Cup Race. She didn’t do particularly well at first. She lost as many of the qualifying races as she could while remaining eligible to continue competing…then she began winning. Resolute came up from the very bottom of the lists to win the silver!

I liked that story. Being at very low ebb in my life, I found it encouraging. In addition to the dictionary definition of the word “resolute” I knew I had to remain resolute myself to continue with (what became years of) painful physical therapy. 

W/C Resolute

(Wheelchair Resolute)

Image of Elizabeth in a football crowd, pitch-side; at a Southampton Saints game taking a break from writing

 My gathered family and friends had fun at my wheelchair launching party as I broke a bottle of cheap champagne on my new wheelchair’s “bow” and gave my guests much better champagne to drink. We celebrated the positive effect W/C Resolute would have in my life, and I kept the hope alive that someday I might be able to sail again, even if it would require adaptive gear. 

In 1996, while waiting for that day, I researched what other vessels had been named Resolute, and found the heroic story of the Arctic exploration ship, HMS Resolute

HMS Resolute

When I began my research I could only find a handful of magazine articles that mentioned HMS Resolute, there were a few books about international relations that contained a paragraph or two, and there was absolutely nothing online. Quite simply, there were no secondary sources. So in 1998, W/C Resolute and I travelled to Britain to explore the primary sources located in the Public Record Office, Kew, the Plymouth library’s naval history collection, and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Neither the trip nor the research were easily accomplished, but the details of that, and the difficulties I had to overcome because of my disability, are really another whole chapter…or at least another page! 

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich Lecture

Being invited to give my lecture at the National Maritime Museum is a real highlight of the lecture experiences. I am looking forward to getting back to doing lectures when my new Resolute book is published. 

Sailing Yacht Resolute

In 2002 I met my husband on a blind date at the Royal Thames Yacht Club in London. A year later we bought our own sailing yacht, a Hallberg-Rassy 36 and we married in 2004. Now we spend as much time as possible on our sailing yacht named…you guessed it…S/Y Resolute! (In many ways my husband is my most essential and important piece of adaptive kit…anyone in a relationship AND dealing with an ongoing disability will understand this!)

Elizabeth Matthews using Queen Victoria’s Resolute Desk at the Royal Navy Museum, Portsmouth during lecture and book signing (during the brief few months when I could function without W/C Resolute)