Monday, August 12, 2019

TENACITY: Women in Jamestown, Virginia: Feature By Polly Guerin

TENACITY, Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia at Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th Century Virginia history and culture, explores little known, captivating personal stories of real women in Jamestown colony and their tenacious spirit and impact on a fledgling society.   

What could have possessed women like Ann Jackson, Anne Burras, Allice Burges, Ann Tanner, Mary Moore, Jane Hill and many other English women to embark on a journey across perilous seas to start a new life in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World? Among them were widows, spinsters, orphans and servant girls, many just teenagers who  sought a better life and adventure. They were lured by the Virginia Company of London, dear readers, with the only honorable profession of their time--the prospect of marriage. 
      The Virginia Company of London sent the first English settlers to Virginia in 1607 they did not include women intentionally, keeping their potentially distracting "fairer sex" home in England.  However, the first women to arrive in Jamestown in 1608 were Anne Burras, age 14 who was the maidservant to Mistress Forrest, the wife of colonist Thomas Forrest. Her mistress died soon afterward  and Anne married John Laydon in the first recorded English marriage in Virginia. Ann's tenacity and resilience insured her survival through relentless troubles including deadly winter of 1609-10, which took the lives of 75 percent of the colonists. Later during Martial Law she survived a severe whipping and later that night lost her unborn child. Go to the exhibit and find
out why so cruel a punishment was decreed.  
      The London Company soon realized that a settlement of men would not thrive without wives and ensuing families. So in order to improve upon the situation, and support their interest in profit, in 1619 the company began a campaign to recruit wives for the Virginia colonists.                   Women's roles in early Virginia were rarely recorded but this exhibit features the names and the personal stories of many of these tenacious women who were lured by incentives that might improve their status in life.  The exhibit gives us the opportunity to share their stories and to give these women a voice and rightful place in history
      Dr. Beverly Straube, Curator of the 17th Century galleries who played a major role in planning the exhibit said, "Our team of five tenacious women got passionate about bringing the women's stories to light."   As for incentives that motivated women to journey to the New World, Dr. Straube pointed out that these women of modest means were offered several incentives saying, "Women received perfumed lambskin gloves, a luxury at that time, and practical items such as clothing and bedding." Unaware of the danger and hardship that awaited them these pioneering women were tenacious, determined and persistent travelers.  ANN JACKSON: Perhaps full of hope and optimism for a new life in Virginia, took it upon herself to leave her father William's  
Ferrar Papers Interactive Screen
house in London and boarded the Marmaduke as one of 56 skilled and respectable women who sailed in 1621. Ann Survived the Atlantic crossing arriving in Jamestown only to have her dream of finding a husband was dashed when in March 1622 the Powathan Indians captured her and 18 other women during an attack on the settlement. Her riveting story of survival and return to England is among many other accounts of hardship and unrequited love. 
     INTERACTIVE DISPLAYS: Among the artifacts on display is the Ferrar Papers, circa 1621. a key source of information about English women who arrived in Virginia in 1621 and 1622. Compiled by a London merchant Nicholas Ferrar, The Ferrar Papers include business documents of many of he 56 women recruited to go to Virginia in 1621, to become wives of he settlers. A touch screen interactive display near the original documents allows visitors to learn more about these early English women. Other interactive Displays throughout the exhibit shed light on many other women including Angelo.
    ANGELO'S STORY: Then, too, there was a woman of a different color. When Angelo stepped off the ship Treasurer she saw no one who looked like her. As one of the first Africans in the colony, she arrived in 1619 as an enslaved woman from the Portuguese colony of Angola in West Central Africa.  To add to the drama of her life in Virginia. English officials traded suppliers forAngelo. It is further revealed from period documents that by 1625 she worked for planter William Peirce and his wife Joane on their property in Jamestown. Look for two rare documents related to Angelo on loan for the first time in America from the National Archives of the United Kingdom.
Naming the Women Step by Step up the Staircase
LEGACY WALL: Add your own Tenacity to the exhibit. An interactive "Legacy Wall" allows visitors to explore the stories of women from 1607 to the present with a touch a screen, as well as share their own stories of tenacious women in history and their own lives. Image Left: Although you can take an elevator instead look for the staircase that leads up to the TENACITY exhibit where the names of these courageous women are listed, step by step, including Temperance Flowerdew Barrow Yeardley West who stepped off a ship in 1609 in Virginia in the midst of a harsh, starvation-fraught winter. Yet tenacious 
Temperance survived.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! This new exhibit TENACITY runs through to January 5, 2020. For information about Tenacity and related programs, visit and Administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
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