Ruth Hart Leary

Ruth Hart Leary

1814 – 1888

According to family legend Ruth Leary was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. She sailed with her husband, Captain Timothy Leary, from 1858 to 1861 in his clipper Golden City. The honor of being the first female circumnavigator more likely goes to Jeanne Baret, a French botanist who set sail in 1766, but Jeanne’s earlier travels in no way take away from Ruth’s adventure. Ruth spent years at home waiting for Timothy to return from his voyages. This was to be his last, and with her children grown, Ruth decided to join him.

Family records say the ship departed Boston and traveled to New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Fuzhou, Manila, Tahiti, London, and Boston. Historic newspapers make no mention of Ruth on the trip but do document the ship in London and Manila.

When they were home the Leary’s lived in Adamsville in a stone cottage on Old Harbor Road that they had purchased in 1843. The couple’s two children predeceased them. Their son died at sea. Ruth died in 1888, and Timothy immediately sold their Adamsville cottage and moved to Tiverton to live with his grandchildren.

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Outdoor exhibit panel from the 2020 special exhibition, The Little Compton Women’s History Project.

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