The Pilgrims

Pilgrim Women at Plymouth Colony

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.

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The Mayflower

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.

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Abigail Adams Smith

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Biography

Daughter of 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Nabby was shy and somewhat withdrawn, but a striking woman, with long red hair, a round face, deep-blue eyes and a porcelain complexion.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.

Abigail Amelia Adams was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, on July 14, 1765, the firstborn of Abigail Adams, the most prominent woman in early American society, and John Adams, Founding Father and second President of the United States. They began calling her “Nabby” when she was still a baby. By age 10 Nabby was a mature girl and helped her mother with farm chores while her father and brother were away on diplomatic missions.

In 1785, while John Adams was the U.S. minister to Great Britain, he called for Abigail and Nabby to join him in London. Shortly afterward Nabby met William Stephens Smith, who was serving as her father’s secretary. Born on Long Island, New York, in 1755, Smith had graduated from Princeton University in 1774.

William Smith had served in the Revolutionary War as an aide-de-camp and fought in several battles in New York and New Jersey: the Battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton and Monmouth. He was on the staff of General Lafayette in 1780 and 1781, then transferred to the staff of .

Though he was 10 years her senior, Nabby married William Smith at the American minister’s residence in London on June 12, 1786. In the spring of 1787, Nabby’s first son, William Steuben, was born. Three more children followed, all born in New York: John Adams, Thomas (who died at age one), and Caroline Amelia.

The Smiths returned to America in 1788. After settling in Jamaica, Long Island, Nabby expressed her disenchantment with the formalities of social interactions in New York City and complained of the wasted time and energy society spent at parties and dinners. She generally stayed at home on Long Island, where, she told her mother, “I have as much society as I wish in our own family.”

Nabby did, however, become more involved in society after the arrival of her parents in New York City when John Adams became vice president to George Washington in 1789. That same year, President Washington appointed William Smith the first United States Marshal for the District of New York, which brought him into the company of high-ranking officials.

Accordingly, the Smiths dined with the Washingtons at least once a week, often sharing the company of Governor and Mrs. Clinton of New York and others. However, the socializing was short-lived; when the new government moved to Philadelphia in 1790, William and Nabby, with their three children, remained in New York.

While William Smith had seemed a suitable husband at first, he proved to be “wholly devoid of judgment,” in Abigail’s words. Abandoned on numerous occasions while her husband went “seeking his fortune”, Nabby showed herself to be a true child of her parents, strong-willed, uncomplaining and able to keep herself and her children together under one roof, earning the unstinting respect of John and Abigail and of her brother John Quincy.

Smith became involved in a series of speculative ventures that led to constant financial difficulties for his family. Nabby’s parents used their influence when possible to obtain government jobs for William, but this did not keep their daughter from poverty. Although William financial decisions were poor, to say the least, Nabby was devoted to him.

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Susanna Farnham Clarke Copley

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.

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Anna Green Winslow

Diarist and School Girl Before the Revolution

Anna Green Winslow was born November 29, 1759, at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Anna came from a long line of prestigious, upper-class British colonists. When the weary Pilgrims stopped at Cape Cod – before they made their memorable landing at Plymouth Rock – a young girl jumped on shore, and was the first Englishwoman to set foot on the soil of New England. Her name was Mary Chilton; she later married John Winslow. Anna Green Winslow was Mary Chilton’s descendant in the sixth generation.

Anna’s father, Joshua Winslow, was but eighteen years of age when he began his career as a soldier. In 1745, he was appointed Commissary-General of the British forces in Nova Scotia. Upon his return to New England, he married his cousin, Anna Green, on January 3, 1759. Their daughter, Anna Green Winslow, was born there, and they subsequently had two sons, neither of whom survived childhood.

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Sally Cary Fairfax

George Washington’s Friend

Sarah “Sally” Fairfax was born in 1730 into one of Virginia’s oldest and wealthiest families. Her forefather, Miles Cary of Bristol, England, came to America in the mid-17th century and established himself as a Virginia nobleman. Sally’s father, Wilson Cary was a member of the House of Burgesses and he inherited one of Virginia’s largest fortunes and the family estate, Ceelys on the James.

The eldest of Wilson Cary’s four daughters, Sally was the most sought-after and a grande belle in Virginia society. The Cary and Fairfax families were living remnants of European feudalism and English aristocracy. Although she had many suitors, George William Fairfax eventually won Sally’s heart.

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Rebecca Bryan Boone

Frontierswoman and Wife of Daniel Boone

Rebecca Bryan was born in Virginia on January 9, 1738, to Joseph Bryan, Sr. and Alee Linville. When she was 10, Rebecca moved with her Quaker family to the Yadkin River valley in the western Piedmont region of North Carolina. Daniel Boone was born in Pennsylvania in 1734, and his family settled near the Bryans in 1750, when Daniel was 15.

Rebecca and Daniel began their courtship in 1753, and married three years later on August 14, 1756. Their marriage lasted fifty-six years, and they had ten children – six sons and four daughters. The new Mr. and Mrs. Boone didn’t have their own cabin, so they stayed with his folks until they built their own cabin on Sugar Tree Creek. Shortly after they moved into their new home, their first child was born.

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Ann Wager

Tutor and Mistress of the Bray School in Williamsburg

Ann Wager’s origins are unknown, except that she was born by 1716. Ann was educated by her father, despite her mother’s wishes – it wasn’t considered ‘proper’ for a young woman to learn or support herself. Her mother discouraged her education, but her father persevered.

Ann married William Wager of Williamsburg, Virginia, and they had two children. Their son, also named William, was born by 1733; by 1760 he was a justice of the peace in Elizabeth City County, and by 1756 he represented that county in the House of Burgesses.

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Jane Mecom

Benjamin Franklin’s Favorite Sister

Benjamin Franklin, the tenth of Josiah Franklin’s sons, was six years old when Jane, the seventh daughter, was born on March 27, 1712. Known to historians as Benjamin Franklin’s favorite sister, Jane was eleven when her restless brother ran away from Boston to begin his career in Philadelphia. After that, the two were together only seven times in their long lives, sometimes briefly, never more than a few months at a time.

On July 27, 1727, Jane was married at fifteen to Edward Mecom, a neighbor eight years her senior. It appears that her parents didn’t ¬like the match, possibly because of her youth, because she was married not by one of the ministers of her family church, but by William Cooper of the Brattle Street Church, which her uncle had attended.

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Milcah Martha Moore

Quaker Writer and Poet

A commonplace book is a manuscript kept by an individual containing literary passages, quotations, recipes, poems, or passages from other sources that the individual thought worthy of recording.

Milcah Martha Moore (1740-1829) lived and flourished in the Philadelphia area during its peak, when it was the center of commerce, politics, social life, and culture in the young republic. A well-educated woman, Moore knew and corresponded with many of the leading intellectuals of her day. From her network of acquaintances, she created a commonplace book.

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