"Sea Lion Woman" (also "Sea-Line Woman", "See [the] Lyin' Woman", "She Lyin' Woman", "See-Line Woman", or "C-Line Woman") is a traditional American folk song originally used as a children's playground song.
The exact origins of the song are unknown but it is believed to have originated in the southern United States. According to Tom Schnabel of KCRW, he was told that: Nina Simone’s “Sealine Woman” is a 19th century seaport song about sailors and prostitutes. The sailors would come into port (Charleston or New Orleans perhaps). Women of the pleasure quarters would be waiting, lined up dockside. Their dress colors signified the specific delights they offered. That is what the song is really about. This would explain the term 'Sea line'(a line of women by the sea) or alternatively, 'See-line'(women standing in a line to be seen).
It was first recorded by folklore researcher Herbert Halpert on May 13, 1939. Halpert was compiling a series of field recordings for the Library of Congress in Byhalia, MS, when he ran across Walter Shipp, a minister, and his wife Mary, a choir director of a local church. Halpert recorded Shipp's daughters, Katharine and Christeen, singing a spare version of "Sea Lion Woman" that defined the basic rhymes and rhythm of the song.
The song was covered by Feist on her 2007 album The Reminder. "Sea Lion Woman" is Feist's original title for this song but on the album it was shortened to "Sealion". Despite their version being based on the original lyrics, Feist and Bass were credited as writers for the Reminder recording. It charted in the Canadian Charts under the name "Sea Lion Woman".