The Life Of The First Colonial Women In Jamestown

American Women are known to be strong and resilient because of the endurance and perseverance that the first colonial women modeled in Jamestown. The women of Jamestown were raped, made to stifle their ambitions , and forced to endure intensive manual labor. Researchers have discovered diaries and stories that have been passed through generations that depict the devastating events of these women.

In 1606, three ships arrived in Virginia, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. They picked the area of Jamestown because it was surrounded by water on three sides but was far inland. Jamestown got its name after the King James the first. The settlement was completed in June and shaped in a triangle with lookouts at each corner. Soon after settlers started dying from diseases (which were said to be caused from the river water they drank from). Their food during was also running low and the local native groups leader, Chief Powhatan, decided to gift them some food to help them out. They were forced to encounter devastating food shortages. This period was known as the “The Starving Time”. They ended up eating anything they could, sometimes even settlers who had previously died. This caused 80-90% of people to die. Another trial the settlers had to face was the threat of Powhatan tribe. After the beginning hardships of Jamestown, they endured wars between others already living on their land and those who wanted what they had.

Jamestown was the first permanent settlement English settlement in North America. It was located in Eastern Virginia and founded in 1607. Almost a year after the men first arrived, the first two english women came. Men outnumbered women for most of the 17th century. In 1620, ninety single women arrived with the intention of grounding the colony and bringing respect to the colony. Women were known to be the backbone of Jamestown. In the early days, women did not have nearly enough rights as they previously did in England. They weren't allowed to vote, own land, or even be in political office. If a woman was not married, her father would hold the rights to her until she was married and had a decent husband. The only time a woman could escape the control of their husband was when he died. If that woman chose to get remarried, she could finally control her own land.

Mistress Forest and her servant Anne Burras were said to be the only two women of the colony until 1609 when another ship came bringing more. These were just two of the many women who were influential to the success of Jamestown and the construction of Colonial America.

Mistress Forest arrived in Jamestown in 1608 during the Second Supply with her husband, Thomas Forest and her servant, Anne Burras. Mistress Forest was said to have passed soon after her arrival in Jamestown. Anne Burras was only fourteen when she arrived. She married John Laydon, who was twenty-eight. This union was concluded to be the first official marriage of Jamestown. About a year later they gave birth to their first child named Virginia. She was the first child to be born in the settlement. This birth provided a sense of hope and stability for the settlers. They eventually had three more children that were all girls. These two women were just the beginning of the impact that the women in Jamestown had.

Pocahontas was born around 1595 and was the Daughter of Chief Powahatan. Pocahantas’ relationship with the settlers was a monumental turning point for the alliance between Jamestown and the tribe . During the winter of 1607, her brother kidnapped a Colonist Captain named John Smith. Pocahontas saved John right as he was about to be killed in front of their village. She was known as an emissary for them. During The Starving Time, she provided them with food and tried to help as best she could, despite the temporary truce between her tribe and the settlers. The colonists became dependent on her tribe for food, so when they were cut off, they were unhappy. They started to retaliate and threatened to burn down the villages of the Powahatans. The chief reacted by trying to make a deal with them. When the settlers didn’t agree to the offer, the Chief planned an ambush on John Smith. Pocahantas warned John Smith and saved him once again. During Pocahantas’ time in jail, she met a man named John Rolfe. She and John Rolfe were married in April of 1614. This marriage was an important step to establishing positive relations between the tribe and the colonists. It brought a sense of peace and hope for future advancements.

All of these women were strong enough to be the first ones to come to Jamestown. When this settlement was first created, there were a lot of problems. There wasn't enough food to go around, They had problems with the natives previously there, and there wasn't enough stability to the colony. Essentially, women were scared to move themselves to a colony they didn't think was safe or stable.

In the beginning, women didn't want to come to Jamestown. It took a lot of hard work and convincing to make them come here. They heard disturbing news of starvation, and harsh conditions in the beginning of Jamestown. In order to convince most women, they had certain incentives of bribes to give them. A man named Edwin Sandys was hired to be the spokesperson and to find or recruit women to send to the settlement. Most of the women who ended up leaving were the working class; they were the ones who weren't born into a wealthy family. These were the most likely to accept, as they thought they could have a better life. The women who came to Jamestown were provided a sort of dowry that consisted of clothing, linens, and other furniture. They were also provided with free transportation which means they didn't have to pay anything for the boat ride there. Lastly they were provided with a plot of land, and a pick of a husband. After a woman would choose a husband, her husband would pay back Virginia for the expenses on traveling and incentives to get her to the colony. Eventually they decided to stop this tradition. Virginia became enraged because they wanted to secure enough wives for the colony. They got in contact with a man named Owen Evans, who was a messenger for The King. He and Virginians tried and almost kidnapped dozens of young women to send to Virginia. He did not succeed and was charged with treason and killed. In this situation women were being treated like property.  

16 December 2021
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