Married life for the pilgrims – guest post by Noelle Granger

ushistoryimages.com

If you’re wondering what married life was like for the pilgrims once they got off the Mayflower, take a look at this terrific November 2015 guest post by mystery writer and historical fiction author Noelle Granger!

I’ve updated this post to include more about Granger’s books and the result of her historical research, The Last Pilgrim:

I recently caught up with Noelle Granger, author of the The Last Pilgrim and Rhe Brewster Mystery Series. Noelle has some great ideas for her first historical novel, based on the early Plimoth Colony. In the following guest post, Noelle talks about her idea and about the history of Pilgrim marriages.

As an author, I think you are always looking forward to the book you’re going to write next. A plan of mine for the next few years is to write my first historical novel. The subject of the book will be Mary Allerton, who came to the New World on the Mayflower when she was a child of four. She lived a long life, eighty years, and saw the many changes in the Plimoth Colony from the time of its establishment by the Pilgrims in 1620. This will be something new for me – not the research, because I do that for my mystery books – but writing about someone who lived nearly 400 years ago. There is no extant writing about the individual members of the original Plimoth Colony. We don’t know what they looked like or anything about their personalities; in most cases all we have is when and where they were born, when they died and the names of their children. We don’t even know exactly where they are buried, except somewhere on Burial Hill in Plymouth. This gives me great deal freedom and responsibility in terms of what I write, at the same time ensuring that the background is accurate and includes recorded historical events.

I want to make these freedom-seeking people real to my readers, with all their foibles and faults and strengths. They were so much more than just the cardboard cutout figures standing with Native Americans around tables laden with a harvest feast. To give you a taste of this, let me tell you something of what is known of the relationship between a Pilgrim husband and wife.

Male dominance was an accepted principle at the time. Public affairs were not open to women and only males were eligible to become “freemen.” Furthermore, women could be regarded with a kind of suspicion, solely because of their sex. Recall that both Old and New World witches were mainly women, and there were two allegations of witchcraft in records of the colony. Nevertheless, Plimoth’s first pastor, John Robinson, preached that women should not be regarded as necessary evils, but a wife should have the proper attitude toward her husband of “reverend subjugation.” It is interesting there is no evidence of habitual deference of one spouse to another, and I suspect that Pilgrim marriages were much more egalitarian than you might think.

A wife was largely subsumed under the legal personality of her husband, and by British common law could not own property, make contracts or sue for damages on her own. In Plimoth, however, a man was required to provide for his wife in his will, and in some cases, women could make a contract, such as that between a widow and her new husband with regard to the disposition of their respective properties. In some cases, women were allowed to separate from their husbands and they could also be granted liquor licenses! Both spouses were involved in the transfer of land and in the “putting out” of children into foster care, a fairly common occurrence when to the benefit of the child and both the natural and foster parents.

Colony records show instances of domestic disputes. Husbands and wives were expected to live together on a regular basis and in relative peace and harmony. If that were not the case, public condemnation might occur, up to and including a whipping. Sometimes domestic bliss took a village.

A woman might divorce her husband if he was impotent, since it was necessary that a marriage produce children, but marriage was expected to be an exclusive sexual union. Adultery was considered a serious transgression, severe enough to permit divorce and public whipping. Interestingly, adultery only occurred between a married woman and a married man or a married woman and an unmarried man. When a married man engaged in a sexual relationship with an unmarried woman, it was not considered adultery!

I think trying to write about the early Plimoth Colony is going to be both a challenge and great fun, and I plan to post more vignettes from what I learn in the course of my research.

Since this post, Granger has written and published The Last Pilgrim. Read my review here.

Be sure to also visit Noelle’s blog at SaylingAway to learn more about her books and other projects.

For more information about the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, check out my reviews of Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Death in a Dacron Sail, and Death in a Mudflat. You can also read more about Death by Pumpkin here.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Married life for the pilgrims – guest post by Noelle Granger

ushistoryimages.com

If you’re wondering what married life was like for the pilgrims once they got off the Mayflower, take a look at this terrific November 2015 guest post by mystery writer and historical fiction author Noelle Granger!

I’ve updated this post to include more about Granger’s books and the result of her historical research, The Last Pilgrim:

I recently caught up with Noelle Granger, author of the The Last Pilgrim and Rhe Brewster Mystery Series. Noelle has some great ideas for her first historical novel, based on the early Plimoth Colony. In the following guest post, Noelle talks about her idea and about the history of Pilgrim marriages.

As an author, I think you are always looking forward to the book you’re going to write next. A plan of mine for the next few years is to write my first historical novel. The subject of the book will be Mary Allerton, who came to the New World on the Mayflower when she was a child of four. She lived a long life, eighty years, and saw the many changes in the Plimoth Colony from the time of its establishment by the Pilgrims in 1620. This will be something new for me – not the research, because I do that for my mystery books – but writing about someone who lived nearly 400 years ago. There is no extant writing about the individual members of the original Plimoth Colony. We don’t know what they looked like or anything about their personalities; in most cases all we have is when and where they were born, when they died and the names of their children. We don’t even know exactly where they are buried, except somewhere on Burial Hill in Plymouth. This gives me great deal freedom and responsibility in terms of what I write, at the same time ensuring that the background is accurate and includes recorded historical events.

I want to make these freedom-seeking people real to my readers, with all their foibles and faults and strengths. They were so much more than just the cardboard cutout figures standing with Native Americans around tables laden with a harvest feast. To give you a taste of this, let me tell you something of what is known of the relationship between a Pilgrim husband and wife.

Male dominance was an accepted principle at the time. Public affairs were not open to women and only males were eligible to become “freemen.” Furthermore, women could be regarded with a kind of suspicion, solely because of their sex. Recall that both Old and New World witches were mainly women, and there were two allegations of witchcraft in records of the colony. Nevertheless, Plimoth’s first pastor, John Robinson, preached that women should not be regarded as necessary evils, but a wife should have the proper attitude toward her husband of “reverend subjugation.” It is interesting there is no evidence of habitual deference of one spouse to another, and I suspect that Pilgrim marriages were much more egalitarian than you might think.

A wife was largely subsumed under the legal personality of her husband, and by British common law could not own property, make contracts or sue for damages on her own. In Plimoth, however, a man was required to provide for his wife in his will, and in some cases, women could make a contract, such as that between a widow and her new husband with regard to the disposition of their respective properties. In some cases, women were allowed to separate from their husbands and they could also be granted liquor licenses! Both spouses were involved in the transfer of land and in the “putting out” of children into foster care, a fairly common occurrence when to the benefit of the child and both the natural and foster parents.

Colony records show instances of domestic disputes. Husbands and wives were expected to live together on a regular basis and in relative peace and harmony. If that were not the case, public condemnation might occur, up to and including a whipping. Sometimes domestic bliss took a village.

A woman might divorce her husband if he was impotent, since it was necessary that a marriage produce children, but marriage was expected to be an exclusive sexual union. Adultery was considered a serious transgression, severe enough to permit divorce and public whipping. Interestingly, adultery only occurred between a married woman and a married man or a married woman and an unmarried man. When a married man engaged in a sexual relationship with an unmarried woman, it was not considered adultery!

I think trying to write about the early Plimoth Colony is going to be both a challenge and great fun, and I plan to post more vignettes from what I learn in the course of my research.

Since this post, Granger has written and published The Last Pilgrim. Read my review here.

Be sure to also visit Noelle’s blog at SaylingAway to learn more about her books and other projects.

For more information about the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, check out my reviews of Death in a Red Canvas Chair, Death in a Dacron Sail, and Death in a Mudflat. You can also read more about Death by Pumpkin here.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Mayflower picMayflower
by
Nathaniel Philbrick

Rating:

Do you think you know all about the Mayflower? Check out Nathaniel Philbrick’s comprehensive and scholarly account that begins with Mayflower’s voyage in 1620 and ends with the conclusion of King Philip’s War in 1676. These 102 Separatists and Non-Separatists struggled to survive when they arrived in Plymouth and did anything they could to keep from starving or freezing to death. Made up of printers and weavers and other tradesmen, women and children, they were woefully unprepared for the desperate conditions that killed nearly half of them in the first year.

I think Philbrick’s goal in this book is to dispel the comfortable myth of the harmonious relationship between settlers and native Americans, happily sitting at a Thanksgiving table. He tells a much more complicated story of the knotty relationships between the original settlers and their neighboring Indian tribes, who had their own dynamics and conflicts between tribal leaders to manage.

The obvious question is just how did it happen that all the Indians’ land was transferred over to the settlers? An ultimately colossal problem and tragedy, it started with a small act, a trade that seemed fair at the time and was agreeable to both sides. Subsequent trading of land for guns and other English goods also seemed fair to the Indians and the English and Philbrick works to explain how that trading system went terribly bad.

There are many players in this time period, most notably William Bradford, William Brewster, Captain Miles Standish, the Winslows, Massasoit and his sons Alexander and Philip, later known as King Philip. I liked reading about the early political and strategic maneuvering between the English settlers and with the native American tribes. The period of relative peace during these early times was the most interesting to me because it showed the progress and development of communities. Being an Easterner, I also liked thinking about what the land and shorelines were like in New England so many years ago.

Philbrick explains in great detail the events leading up to King Philip’s War and the horribly violent acts committed by both armies. It was also interesting reading about the battles during this war, whose English leaders included Benjamin Church, Major William Bradford and James Cudworth.  There were many confusing alliances between the English and some “friendly” Indian tribes and there were also forced alliances between some Indian leaders, some of whom were women. Philbrick explains the many superior fighting strategies used by the Indians in the forests and swamps.  An ingenious Indian fort built in a Rhode Island swamp shows what shrewd fighters and defenders the Native Americans were during this time.

An excellent and informative read. I started out knowing the basic facts of how America began, and how native Americans taught the settlers how to grown corn and how to use fish as a fertilizer.  Now I know more and the story is a lot more complicated!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Check out another interesting book by Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea.  Click here to read my review.
In the Heart of the Sea