A 104-year-old has been a professional lobster woman since she was 8. She says the secret to her longevity is keeping busy.

  • Lobsterwoman Virginia Oliver, 104, has worked in the family business since age 8.

  • The centenarian gets up at 3 a.m. thrice a week to start her shift on the water in Maine.

  • She told Business Insider she will stay in the job "until I die."

She might be 104, but Virginia Oliver won't quit lobster catching — a job she's done on and off since she was 8.

Thick fog, stormy seas, and heavy traps haven't stopped the centenarian from stepping aboard her son, Max's boat, three times a week.

"It's a family tradition," Oliver, of mid-coast Maine, told Business Insider. "I wouldn't want to do anything else."

The formidable grandmother insisted the only "dangers" she faced were occasional cuts while she banded the lobster claws together.

She said that her most recent injury happened three years ago when she was badly pinched on the little finger by a crab.

She refused to conform to a stereotypical role

Oliver needed seven stitches but was more concerned by the attitude of the doctor who treated the wound.

He asked why a woman her age could be out on the water lobstering. "I told him, 'Because I want to,'" she said.

She first refused to conform in 1928 when she joined her father — a shop owner and lobster dealer — on fishing expeditions.

It was the year Herbert Hoover became the 31st President of the US, and Disney made "Steamboat Willie," the first Mickey Mouse cartoon with sound.

Significantly, in 1920, the year Oliver was born, the 19th Amendment was passed, and women in America finally won the right to vote.

An older woman pilots a lobster boat.
Oliver sometimes pilots the lobster boat.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/Getty Images

In the short documentary "The Lobster Lady," released in 2020, Oliver said, "When I started out with lobstering, no women ever went."

She told BI that she had never experienced sexism in the job and the lobstermen she'd met were "friendly."

In the film, she said she worked with her older brother and her late husband as well as accompanying her 80-year-old son.

"My life has been altogether different from most people's," she told Dale Shierholt, who directed the film.

Meanwhile, in her interview with BI, she said the secret to her longevity was keeping busy.

She goes to bed at 9 p.m. before rising at 3 a.m.

"I've always been active and enjoy my work," Oliver, who gets up at 3 a.m. three times a week ahead of loading the boat — appropriately named Virginia.

She said she goes to bed at 9 p.m. the previous night so she gets enough sleep before heading out. She's an early bird, even when she's not working, typically getting up at 5:30 a.m.

"The Lobster Lady" was produced by amateur historian Wayne Gray, who befriended Oliver and her son.

He told BI he'd joined a family dinner on June 6, 2024, when Oliver celebrated her 104th birthday.

A centenarian working on a lobster boat in Maine
Virginia Oliver working on her lobster boat with her son.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/Getty Images

Gray said her relatives supported her decision to keep on lobster fishing, knowing better than to interfere. He said she often piloted the boat and helped operate the winch.

She also measured the lobsters, he added, ensuring they met the size standards set by authorities in Maine

Oliver said she never felt queasy when the ocean got rough, especially after 96 years in the business. "I get wet to the gills, but I never get seasick," she told Shierholt.

Oliver still enjoys the taste of lobster

She told BI that she has not become tired of eating lobster. "I like lobster roll, as long as it's toasted," she said.

Meanwhile, she is somewhat bemused by the attention she has attracted in Maine and beyond. Last year was the subject of a children's book and has been stopped in the street for autographs.

She hoped her career — which, she said, she plans to follow until '"the day I die" — would encourage other women to enter traditionally male-dominated industries.

"I'm glad to see younger lobsterwomen following in my footsteps," she said.

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