Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: The Women Who Came in the Mayflower

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching a look back at the Plymouth colony and the Pilgrims seems in order. A free public domain book for the Kindle is The Women Who Came in the Mayflower by Annie Russell Marble.

This book was of immediate interest to me as I am descended from Mayflower passengers Stephen Hopkins and his second wife, Elizabeth (my ninth great grandmother), and from passenger Francis Cooke and his wife Hester Mahieu (she arrived on a later ship). I am not an expert on the Mayflower and its passengers, but acknowledge the fact that this is part of my heritage (along with several million other Americans living today). My connection to Hopkins and Cooke via the Landon family is documented in Joy Deal Lehmann's book Landon family history: Descendants of Samuel and Margaret Landon of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, and descendants of Daniel and Ann Landon of Greenwood, Nebraska, 1727-1987. 

The Women Who Came in the Mayflower is a quick read, just 56 pages in printed form. It tells little of the actual ocean voyage, but focuses more on the early years in Plymouth. In the first winter and spring, death and illness spread to the point there was only a handful of people to care for the sick and bury the dead. Of the 29 women who came in the Mayflower, 15 died during the first winter and spring. My ancestor, Elizabeth Hopkins, was described as one of the women of "strong physique and dauntless heart" and who "sustained to great old age."

Even with the hardships, Marble states that when the Mayflower was to return to England in April, people were offered free passage to return. No one accepted the offer.

Plymouth had a dwindling population and as more pilgrims arrived on subsequent ships, new families were formed out of necessity, with marriages occurring not long after the death of a spouse. Children had to be raised and the family unit was a necessity.

Marble debunks the image of the pilgrim women in the long gray gowns with the "dainty white collars and cuffs, with stiff caps and dark capes." In reality, she writes, they wore whatever was available. It was not until a few years later that nicer clothing became part of their wardrobe. And their clothing was awash with color, not just grey and black, she writes.

This little book is liberally footnoted. In the Kindle format, the footnotes appear right in the text, which is a bit distracting. It is far from being a comprehensive history of either the Mayflower women or of Plymouth. But it's interesting enough (it takes less than an hour to read). And the price is right: free.


  1. Yay!! I am now an official blog follower. Next step blog writer. I love women's history as it was one of my areas of specialization in colllege. I am afraid the one Plymouth female ancestor I have was known to be rather notorious. A great subject for a future blog. You will just have to keep guessing until I reveal her.

  2. Susan - you'll have to make sure your blog is announced on geneabloggers! I look forward to reading about your notorious ancester.

  3. Loved this post! I'm the Captain of the NH Society, and we had Governor General Judy Swan at our May luncheon to speak on this very topic. It was our scholarship award lunch, and she had all the teens in the audience captivated. There are many books on the subject, but its nice to hear about a free one!