HIDDEN IN VA. HISTORY
“Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” an exhibition at Jamestown Settlement, tells the littleknown stories of the English, African and Native American women who created Virginia.
Exhibition at Jamestown Settlement tells stories of the English, African and Native American women who created Virginia
Anne Burras was only14 when she arrived in Jamestown in1608. She was maidservant to another woman who died shortly after their arrival. For a time, Anne was the only English woman in a colony of about 200 men. She married two months later, faced near starvation, miscarried after receiving a severe whipping for violating martial law, survived a deadly attack by Native Americans and eventually bore four daughters.
Hers is one of dozens of narratives featured at “Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” an exhibition at Jamestown Settlement running through Jan. 5, 2020. Its purpose is to tell the little-known stories of the English, African and Native American women who created Virginia. Each riser on the stairway that leads to the exhibition galleries is inscribed with the name of a woman. At the entrance to the gallery, a wall panel challenges visitors to “Remember the names of these women and speak them.”
“Tenacity” is a collaborative effort funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia, James City County and American Evolution, a statewide celebration highlighting the 400th anniversary of key events in1619 Virginia. Special artifacts have been loaned by 22 institutions in the United States and Britain — including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Several items are being shown in North America for the first time.
It’s an impressive collection that illustrates how the material culture of several worlds collided in Virginia: Powhatan clay pots, cups made from turtle shells, bone awls, English silver bodkins, straight pins — even a goffering iron to make neck ruffs, an important part of European clothing in the17th century. There are luxurious furnishings from the plantation period, including a Japanned cabinet from Europe and one of the oldest known pieces of Virginia-made furniture — a magnificent court cupboard. And there are items for children — a fruitwood rattle and an elaborately carved walnut highchair.
The exhibition uses the artifacts together with historical documents to piece together the stories of the women who would have used such items. Touch screens, wall panels, videos and displays bring their stories to life.
A Jamestown settlement historical interpreter sews shirts in a re-created fort. Special artifacts have been loaned by 22 institutions for the new exhibition on women.
Among the rare documents is this “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia” from 1624 to 1625, on loan from the NationalArchives of the United Kingdom.