Skip to main content

Why there were only four Englishwomen at the first Thanksgiving

At the first Thanksgiving, in November 1621, there were only four European women in attendance.  It’s not that more weren’t invited.  It’s just that there were only four European women around.  All the others died.
-->
The Mayflower during its Atlantic crossing, fall 1620 (photo not available).

The Pilgrims’ first winter at Plymouth was harsh, and they weren’t ready for it.  Only five of the women in the group lived to see the spring.  Most of the men survived, and 22 of the thirty of the children survived, too.  The Mayflower landed on November 16, 1620, right when winter was starting.  The Pilgrims figured it wouldn’t matter so much since they had traveled to a place well south of England, so the winter would probably be milder.  London is as far north as the city of Calgary, but its winters aren’t as cold as Calgary’s because the Gulf Stream current sends warm water and warm air, providing a much gentler climate for it and for western Europe.  This was not understood yet, but they learned it quick.  The Pilgrims knew they were heading south to around 40º latitude, the same as that of Madrid.  The weather in New England wasn’t very well understood yet, so they expected to find a Mediterranean climate, not snow and months of temperatures below freezing.

Women, it was said at the time and for a long time afterward, had “weaker bodies” and thus weren’t hardy enough to survive.  A more accurate way to put it is that they had weakened bodies.  Remember that there was no Motel 6 to check in to at Plymouth at the time, so everyone had to spend all their time on the ship, anchored off the coast.  Everyone but the men, who were busy building houses, hunting game, and foraging for food.  Women were confined to the ship.  A more modern understanding holds that because the men were able to stay active in the fresh air, they reaped health benefits that women missed out on.  Women also had prolonged exposure to disease on the ship, and were more likely to get sick.  As a result, the women’s health was generally worse than the men’s.  It didn’t help that the task of taking care of the sick men and women fell to the women, who were exposed to germs and viruses more than the men.  Compound that with the cramped, filthy conditions of the ship, they were much more vulnerable.  Had women been allowed to leave the ship and stretch their legs more, and even do physical labor, more of them would probably have survived.

Five of the 28 women survived that winter.  46 of the 78 men survived.  One of the women, Katherine Carver, died in May 1621, diagnosed with a “broken heart” caused by her husband dying of sunstroke a month earlier.  In 1623, the wives who stayed behind in England finally came to join their families in the New World.  None of them perished during the winter of 1620/21.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in October 1621, following the harvest that year.  There were over 140 people in attendance, including 90 Wampanoags who joined them.  Much of the thanks was owed to the Wampanoags, the native people of the region, who had shown the Pilgrims how to plant and raise corn.  They were probably responsible for averting more Pilgrims' deaths that year.  The last Pilgrim, Mary Allerton, who arrived on the Mayflower at age 3, died in 1699.

There was never another voyage of the Mayflower.  The ship sailed back to England in the spring of 1621, was decommissioned, and sold for scrap.  Its timbers are said to have been purchased by a farmer in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1624 and used to build a barn.  The barn still stands today, and is a popular tourist attraction, despite the fact that the authenticity of the claim has been widely discredited.


-->
The reverse of an American $10,000 bill representing the Embarkation of the Mayflower.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kick the Football, Charlie Brown

What's the lesson here? For nearly the entire run of Charles Schulz's Peanuts  comic strip, one running gag has been the football gag.  The gag is simple: Lucy Van Pelt kneels down on the grass, holding a football in place, and tells Charlie Brown to kick it.  Charlie Brown gets a good running start, ready to give it a good, solid kick, but at the last minute, Lucy pulls it away.  The final panel usually has a miserable Charlie Brown laying on the ground while Lucy looks over him, holding the football, telling him in one way or another that he obviously shouldn't have trusted her. The gag first appeared on November 14, 1951, when the strip was just over a year old.  In the first occurrence, the football was not held by Lucy but by Violet Gray, another little girl in Charlie Brown’s neighborhood.  (Violet would later become a minor character in the strip, and Lucy would become a major one.   Lucy wouldn’t appear in the strip until the following year.)  The f

43-Man Squamish: An Innovation in Athletics

For some people, one of the most tantalizing challenges is being told, explicitly or implicitly, that you can’t do something.  In 1965, MAD magazine writer Tom Koch laid down one such challenge.  He wrote an article laying out the rules of a sport he invented called 43-man squamish.  The article was illustrated by artist George Woodbridge, and judging by the mail MAD received from its readers, it was a huge hit.  Of course, Koch didn’t really intend the article to b e a challenge.  His idea was to invent a sport that was complex, convoluted, absurd, and ultimately unplayable.  It featured the kind of text readers of MAD, not athletes, would expect.  It’s an uncommon sport that has instructions like, “The offensive team, upon receiving the Pritz, receives five Snivels in which to advance to the enemy goal.  If they do it on the ground, it’s a Woomik and counts as 17 points.  If they hit it across with their Frullips it’s a Dermish which only counts points.  Only the offensive Nibling

CNN: Space Shuttle traveled 18 times the speed of light

The CNN headline is not necessarily inaccurate because what we accept as the standard speed of light, 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second, is more of an average of the speeds of faster and slower lights. Ordinary light, like what we typically get from the sun, typically sticks to the average speed of light. However, here in Boston it's overcast, so when the light hits the clouds it has to slow down considerably. When the light gets through the clouds it's slowed down, which is why things look grayer right now. On bright days, when there are no clouds to impede the light, it can come rushing right at the earth, and its speed makes it seem brighter. Brightness is relative to the speed of light, which is what the Theory of Relativity is all about. The Space Shuttle, flying on a cloudy day and over a part of the country without a lot of artificial light emanating from it, was flying relatively faster than the light in that area at that time. Since the light was th