Philomene Ostiguy Daniels

Captain Phil
Captain Phil

Time Period


Subject Categories

Business, Everyday Life

Notable Facts

Became the first American woman to be liscensed as a Pilot and Master for steamboat navigation in 1877. Boat ran on Lake Champlain.

Personal Information

Date of Birth


Date of Death


Primary Residence




Historical Significance

Philomene Daniels, or "Captain Phil", was the first woman in the U.S. to be licensed as Pilot and Master for steamboat navigation. With her husband, Captain Louis Daniels, Jr., she operated the "Daniels Boat Line" on Lake Champlain and on the Otter Creek.

Captain Louis Daniels operated the daily ferry, "The Water Lily", which ran between Vergennes, VT and Westport, NY. Philomene Daniels had about ten years experience at the helm of this craft prior to becoming the first licensed female steamboat captain. Daniels then operated her own boat, "The Victor". While her husband ran the daily ferry, Philomene would often use her ferry to run "excursion trips". On these trips she transported wealthy passengers from Vergennes and Westport to New York City to attend the opera and stay up-to-date with the latest fashions. The Daniels Boat Line stopped at all the summer resorts and private landings in the area. On one notable trip in September 1887, Champ, Lake Champlain's legendary lake monster, was reportedly sighted.

When Captain Louis Daniels died in 1903, Philomene Daniels continued to run the business until her son, Mitchell, and his wife, Helen, took over. Helen Daniels became the second female licensed steamboat captain in the U.S. While raising eight children, she took over Philomene's duties for 13 years before the ferry finally became outdated in 1916.

The Westport Marina, on Lake Champlain, operates "Philomene Boat Tours" in her honor.


  • Steamboat captain

Additional Information (Bibliography)

  • Timeline of Reform Movements (NY Suffragists) Link

  • Lake Champlain's Historic Landings Heritage Trail Link

  • Philomena Boat Tours Link

  • "The Woman Pilot"; "The Daniels: Steamboat Family"; "Vergennes Had World's First..."

  • Burlington Free Press article

  • "The Captain Wore Petticoats", by Jane Vincent

  • Article by descendant, Jane Vincent

  • Vincent, Jane. "Philomene Ostiguy Daniels." In In The Vermont Encyclopedia. Edited by John Duffy. University Press of New England, 2003.