The women of Jamestown

The Week (US) - - Leisure -

No won­der the new ex­hi­bi­tion at Virginia’s Jamestown Set­tle­ment is ti­tled “Tenac­ity,” said James Lee in The Wash­ing­ton Post. The ar­ti­facts on dis­play tell the sto­ries of the first women to live in colo­nial Virginia—all of whom fought des­per­ately for sur­vival, whether they were English, African, or Na­tive Amer­i­can. Anne Bur­ras was left the lone woman among 200 set­tlers not long af­ter her 1608 ar­rival. She mar­ried two months later, mis­car­ried af­ter re­ceiv­ing a whip­ping, sur­vived an at­tack by Na­tive Amer­i­cans, and even­tu­ally bore four daugh­ters. I read dozens of such sto­ries be­tween dis­plays of ar­ti­facts such as a “duck­ing chair,” a hate­ful de­vice used to wa­ter­board women who chat­tered too much. More heart­en­ing were the sto­ries of Cock­a­coeske, leader of the Pa­munkey, and El­iz­a­beth Key, a mixed-race woman who sued for her free­dom. As a gallery wall panel im­plores, “Re­mem­ber the names of these women and speak them.”

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