Showing posts with label Colonial Women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colonial Women. Show all posts


The Mayflower

the ship Mayflower anchored in the harbor after arriving at Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Women on the Mayflower

Image: The Ship Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
By William Halsall

The passengers on the ship Mayflower were the earliest permanent European settlers in New England. They were referred to as the "First Comers" and they lived in perilous times. With their religion oppressed by the British government and the Church of England, the small party of Separatists who comprised almost half of the passengers on the ship sought a life where they could practice their religion freely.

Freedom We Seek
On September 6, 1620, the ship Mayflower set off from Plymouth, England on its journey to the New World. There were 102 passengers, which included 41 English Separatists (who would become known as the Pilgrims), who were seeking a new life of religious freedom in America. The Separatists had obtained a Patent from the London Company, which indentured them into service for the Company for seven years after they arrived.

The Pilgrims

bronze statue dedicated to the young Pilgrim women on the Mayflower

Pilgrim Women at Plymouth Colony

Image: The Pilgrim Maiden Statue
Sculpted by Henry Hudson Kitson
Brewster Gardens, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Dedicated in 1924 to "those intrepid English women whose courage, fortitude and devotion brought a new nation into being."

In the first years of the 17th century, small numbers of English Puritans broke away from the Church of England and committed themselves to a life based on the Bible. Most of these Separatists were farmers, poorly educated and without social or political standing. The Separatists were persecuted in England, and many fled to Holland where their religious views were tolerated. They remained there for almost 12 years.


Abigail Adams Smith

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Biography

daughter of John and Abigail Adams, Nabby died of breast cancer in 1813

Daughter of John and Abigail Adams

October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The primary purpose is to promote regular mammograms as the most effective way to save lives by detecting breast cancer at its early stages. Nabby Adams Smith (1765-1813), daughter of John and Abigail Adams, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45. Of course, she had none of the advantages we now have to help her fight the disease.

Abigail Amelia Adams Smith

Nabby was shy and somewhat withdrawn, but a striking woman, with long red hair, a round face, deep-blue eyes and a porcelain complexion. She commanded respect simply because of the quality of her mind and her unfailing dignity.


Susanna Farnham Clarke Copley

colonial woman

Wife of American Portrait Artist John Singleton Copley

Susannah Farnham Clarke was born on May 20, 1745, in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Richard Clarke and Elizabeth Winslow, both of whom were of high social position. Richard had graduated from Harvard College in 1729, and became one of the most prominent merchants in Boston, later under the name of Richard Clarke & Sons. Elizabeth Winslow's ancestry goes back to Mary Chilton, who came from England on the Mayflower in 1620.

John Singleton Copley was born July 26, 1738, son of humble Irish parents, Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, recent Irish immigrants, who lived in a very simple home and ran a tobacco shop on Long Wharf in Boston. Long Wharf was home to approximately 40% of colonial American shipping, and a center of trade, with exports such as lumber, beef, and furs, and imports such as textiles, glass, sugar, and rum.


Burning of the Gaspee

British ship burning

Early Incident in the American Revolution

Image: The Burning of the Gaspee
Painting by Charles DeWolfe Brownell

At the end of the Seven Years' War, following Britain’s decisive victory, several successive ministries implemented reforms in an attempt to achieve more effective administrative control and raise more revenue in the colonies. The revenue was necessary, Parliament believed, to bolster military and naval defensive positions along the borders of their far-flung empire, and to pay the crushing debt incurred in winning the war on behalf of those colonies.

The Newport, Rhode Island area has a long and interesting local history, and since 1741 the town's tradition has included the Newport Artillery Company, the oldest continuous commissioned military unit in the United States. The company was formed under the terms of a charter granted by King George II of England, and the formation of the company.


Eliza Lucas Pinckney

South Carolina indigo plant

Colonial South Carolina Woman

Eliza Lucas was born on the Caribbean island of Antigua in the West Indies in 1722, the daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel George Lucas of the British Army and his wife. She had two younger brothers and a younger sister. Eliza attended a finishing school in England where French, music, and other traditionally feminine subjects were stressed, but Eliza's favorite subject was botany.

In about 1738, the Lucas family migrated from Antigua to a farming area near Charleston, South Carolina, where Eliza's mother died soon thereafter. George Lucas bought several plantations, but he was soon recalled to Antigua, and Eliza was left to take care of her siblings and to manage his three plantations.


Mary Easty

witchcraft hanging

Salem Witch Trials

Image: The Salem Martyr 
By Thomas Slatterwhite Noble
Noble gained a reputation for his dramatic paintings of abolitionist subjects, and later turned to the Salem witch trials for another powerful moral theme. The Salem Martyr won a silver medal at the 1869 Cincinnati Industrial Exposition. A tradition in the Noble family holds that the model for this painting was a Cincinnati librarian who was a descendant of a woman who was executed in the Salem witch trials.

Mary Easty was well respected in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. She was a kind religious woman whose dignified demeanor fit the strict Puritan mold. She was about 58 years old at the time, and was married to Isaac Easty, with whom she had seven children. They owned and lived on a large valuable farm.


Martha Corey

witches in the american colonies

Salem Witchcraft Trials

Image: Martha and Giles Corey

Martha Corey lived on a farm in the southwest corner of Salem village with her husband Giles, a prosperous, uneducated, eighty-year-old farmer and full member of the church. In March 1692, Martha Corey made the mistake of publicly questioning the sincerity of the accusations of the afflicted girls – a group of Salem girls who had condemned several people as witches.

The Accusation
When the girls learned of Martha's attacks, they quickly responded by accusing her of witchcraft. When the girls first mentioned the name of Martha Corey, Edward Putnam and Ezekiel Cheever went to see Martha about the matter on March 12th. On the way, they saw Ann Putnam and asked her what clothes Mrs. Corey wore when her apparition appeared to her as Ann had said. Ann said that she was so blinded she could not see.


Martha Carrier

Salem witch

Salem Witchcraft Trials

Image: Scene at Witchcraft Trial

Born Martha Allen, she was the daughter of one of the original founders of the Massachusetts town of Andover. In 1674, Martha married below her station to a young Welsh servant, who was the father of her illegitimate child, Thomas Carrier. Living for a few years in Billerica, the couple returned to Andover in the 1680s with very little money and four children.

The couple settled in Billerica proceeded to enlarge their family. After what must have been a joyful time for the Carriers, now with three sons and two daughters, the tough times began in 1690. The next two Carrier children died from the common 17th century disease of smallpox.


Rebecca Nurse

accused Salem witches

Salem Witch Trials

Image: The Towne Sisters
This plaster statue depicts sisters Rebecca Towne Nurse, Mary Towne Easty, and Sarah Towne Cloyce wearing shackles. Nurse and Easty were hanged, but Cloyce was later released. The statue is located in the Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers.

Rebecca Towne was baptized at Yarmouth, England, on February 21, 1621. She came to Salem, Massachusetts with her family in 1640. In about 1645, she married Francis Nurse, who was described as a tray maker. The making of trays and similar articles of domestic use was important employment in the remote countryside.

In 1692, the "black cloud of the witchcraft delusion descended upon Salem Village." Rebecca Nurse was a 71-year-old invalid who had raised a family of eight children. Her family had been involved in several land disputes, which could have caused ill-feelings among some of the residents of Salem. Nevertheless, most of her contemporaries sympathized with her.


Susannah Martin

Salem witch

Salem Witch Trials

Susannah North Martin
Reading her Bible in Salem Jail

Susannah North was baptized at Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, September 30, 1621. Her mother died when she was a child, and her stepmother was named Ursula. She came to America with her father, stepmother, and at least one sister. Her family moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts, around 1639. On August 11, 1646, Susannah became the second wife of George Martin, a blacksmith with whom she had eight children.

First Accusation
In 1669, Susannah was first formally accused of witchcraft by William Sargent. Susannah was required to post 100 pounds bond to appear in court on a charge of witchcraft, a capital offense. George Martin sued Sargent for slander against Susannah for accusing her of being a witch, but the Court upheld the accusation of witchcraft. A higher court later dismissed the witchcraft charges.


Sarah Wildes

Salem witch

Salem Witch Trials

In 1692 the Puritans had governmental control of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and only members of the Puritan church were allowed to vote. Well-to-do merchants were complaining, and King Charles I was considering changing the charter for Massachusetts to allow all property owners to vote. This would mean loss of power for the Puritans. All the upper echelons of the church were enraged at the prospect.

John Wildes' first wife Priscilla died in 1662, and he remarried in 1663 to Sarah Averill. By this time, John was very prominent in Topsfield politics (at the time of his death he was known in Topsfield as "Old Father Wildes." He was responsible for surveying the land to establish the boundary between Topsfield and Salem. The survey was a matter of great contention, and it was ultimately resolved in Topsfield's favor.


Elizabeth Howe

Salem witch

New England Witch Trials

Topsfield, Massachusetts
New England was organized into townships roughly six miles square with a village surrounding the "commons", which was a central community grazing ground, with the church and community meeting house facing the commons. Town meetings elected town officers and the sheriff, raised taxes, and tried to resolve any problems present in the community. Many communities set up different rules than those pronounced by the General Court in Boston.

The people of such communities were very dependent upon each other. Individuals interacted by means of the sale of goods or labor or by barter for other goods or labor. One's ability to generate trades was economically necessary, but generosity was needed as well since all these dealings were seen and known throughout the whole community.


Sarah Good

accused colonial witch

Salem Witch Trials

Seventeenth century laws on witchcraft in New England paralleled those in England, based on a verse from the King James translation of the Bible. The verse, Exodus 22:18, reads "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." The King James version of the Bible was ordered by King James I, who ruled from 1603 to 1625. By 1647, all New England colonies had made witchcraft a capital crime, punishable by death.

Sarah Solart was the daughter of a prosperous Wenham innkeeper, John Solart. Solart took his own life by drowning in 1672 when Sarah was 17, leaving an estate of 500 pounds. After testimony of an oral will, the estate was divided between his widow and her two eldest sons, with a portion to be paid to each of the seven daughters when they came of age. Mrs. Solart quickly remarried, and her new husband came into possession of her share and the unpaid shares of the daughters, and most of the daughters never received a portion of the Solart estate.



colonial witch Tituba

Accused of Witchcraft

Image: Tituba's Encounter with Cotton Mather in the Woods of Salem
A scene from the play Giles Corey of the Salem Farms
Illustration in The Political Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Volume II

Tituba was a South American Indian woman, not an African American slave, as is commonly believed. She was originally from an Arawak village in South America, where she was captured as a child, taken to Barbados and sold into slavery. It was in Barbados that her life first became entangled with that of Reverend Samuel Parris.


Salem Witch Trials

13 women were hanged on Gallows Hill during the Salem Witchcraft Trials

Witchcraft in 17th Century Massachusetts

Image: Witchcraft Victims on the Way to the Gallows
Illustration in the Boston Herald 14 May 1930

Scattered episodes of witch trials and hangings occurred throughout New England from the middle sixteen hundreds. The only escape for the accused or condemned was to confess and claim to negate the pact with the Devil, or to escape south out of New England to New York or Pennsylvania where witchcraft was not punished. Most of the accused were not wealthy enough to escape south fast enough to stay ahead of the sheriff sent to detain them.


The Life of a Colonial Wife

colonial women

A Woman's Place

Because most colonial women married, the term good wife came into existence and a code of ethics developed that would govern female life in New England from 1650 to 1750. Good wives had legal rights in colonial America, and actually had more freedom than nineteenth-century women would have.

With This Ring
Marriage was considered the normal state for all adult residents in the colonies. Most men first married in their mid-twenties, and women at around age 20. Second marriages were not uncommon, and widows and widowers faced social and economic pressures to remarry. On average, most widows and widowers remarried within six months to a year.


New Jersey Women

colony of new jersey native Americans

Native American, Dutch and English Women

Image: Lenape Woman

Native American Lenape women were the first New Jersey women. They lived in the Land of the Lenape for more than 12,000 years. They were a highly developed culture with communities that included a great hall, a central building for government, agricultural and spiritual meetings. Smallpox and other imported diseases ravaged the Lenape population. Although Lenape were known as a peaceful people, they were forced to defend themselves and their land against Dutch settlers in the 1600s.

Lenape communities included separate buildings for trade, food storage, cooking, children's education, medical purposes, and a building for teaching war tactics. Lenape communities also included single-family dwellings for newlyweds and elders. The central and largest building was used for gatherings to celebrate engagements, weddings, births, spring festival, and annual harvest.


Rebecca Greensmith

colonial woman washing clothes in a basin

The Year: 1662

In each of the New England colonies, witchcraft was a capital crime that involved having some type of relationship with or entertaining Satan. The earliest laws of Connecticut and New Haven colonies, the Blue Laws, made it a capital offense.

The largest witch-hunt in mid-seventeenth century New England occurred in Hartford, Connecticut. After the execution of John and Joan Carrington of Wethersfield in 1651 and Lydia Gilbert of Windsor in 1654, a witchcraft tragedy took place among Hartford's residents.


Joan Carrington

colonial witch trials

Witchcraft in Connecticut

Murder may be the surest ticket to the death chamber in Connecticut today, but 350 years ago, witchcraft was the crime most likely to result in a death sentence. Connecticut made witchcraft a capital offense as far back as 1642.

Between 1647, when Alice Young of Windsor was hanged for witchcraft, to 1663, when the state's taste for executing suspected witches began to wane, Connecticut convicted and executed more witches than anywhere else in colonial America. At least seven suspected witches were executed during that time.