March 1st marks the beginning of Women’s History Month. It also prompted me to think about the history of women in the founding of this country. Specifically, the women and families that came over on the Mayflower. I’ve done a little reading on this part of US history and ran across some amazing stories.
Plymouth Colony, founded by the families of the Mayflower, was the first colony to include women and children. It was founded to provide a group of families a place to worship in a manner of their choosing. [Jamestown, the first colony established by the English, initially only included men because it was founded as a profit-making venture. Here’s a little history on Jamestown: https://www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/jamestown.]
The Mayflower was not a big ship. There were 102 passengers and probably about 30 crew. The living space on the ship was 50 x 25 feet with a 5-foot ceiling. (That’s less than 10 sq feet per person.) There was no toilet, and it is assumed they used a bucket fixed to a wall so as not to be jostled at sea.
I can’t even begin to get my head wrapped around what this must have been like. The journey lasted for 10 weeks from shore to shore. It was November when they landed and had to start building the colony. But, if you ever experienced winter in Massachusetts, you know it wouldn’t have been easy. The passengers and crew ended up living mainly on the Mayflower until April of the following year when it sailed back to England. Also, half of the passengers died that winter.
These were harsh conditions. But that’s not all of it.
There were 18 women who boarded the Mayflower, three of them were pregnant. They all knew they would either give birth on the ship or in an unknown, wild land. Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth at sea. Both she and her family survived the first year, although sadly, the baby died at the age of 2. Susanna White gave birth shortly after the Mayflower landed. Both she and her children (she also brought a 5-year-old with her on the voyage) survived the first winter. Mary Allerton wasn’t so lucky. Her child was stillborn and she died that first winter.
There were 15 other women, all of who deserve recognition. Sadly, only 5 women survived that first deadly winter. You can read more about the women of the Mayflower here: http://bit.ly/Mayflower-Women
When I consider what these women faced as they boarded the Mayflower in England for the voyage across the Atlantic, I am in awe of their bravery and willingness to face their fears so they could keep their families together, worship as they saw fit, and forge a new way of life for their small community. This is just one example of the grit and determination women are capable of.
Let’s celebrate that same spirit of determination, bravery, and care in all of us who strive every day to take care of ourselves, our families, and our communities.