In a newe plantation it is not knowen whether man or woman essay on mothers love in english more necessary. Early Virginia history has long been an important source of legends about the founding of the United States. Some of these legends feature women in starring roles, as in the case of Pocahontas, while others use women’s victimization-as in the case of the wife who became a meal for her starving husband-as evidence of frontier adversity that would eventually be overcome by triumphant English settlers. Virginia colony even if the conditions of their daily lives arouse our curiosity.
How important were women to the history of early Jamestown? Do any of the above approaches-woman as Native American heroine, woman as European frontier victim, or woman as politically insignificant companion-accurately capture the historical significance of English, Indian, and African women in England’s first permanent mainland settlement? What happens if we set the sensational legends of Jamestown’s past in the larger context of European, Indian and African peoples in contact throughout the Americas? How does women’s role in the history of early Jamestown compare to that of other European outposts in the New World?
Any effort to assess the historical significance of women in the colonial past must begin by considering who is included in the category “women. With the exception of Pocahontas, who made it into popular legend by virtue of the assistance she provided to the English sufferers at Jamestown, white English women have been the focus of most histories of colonial women. In the last two decades, however, scholarship on Native American and African women has raised questions about this focus. It has become increasingly clear that women of at least three races and several different nationalities actively shaped the history of Jamestown. Despite the lopsided sex ratio of four English men for every English woman early in the seventeenth century, the presence of English women as servants, wives, mothers, agricultural workers and highly valued immigrants had a crucial impact on the development of the English settlement at Jamestown.
The importance of Indian women to Powhatan society and their interactions with the pale strangers at the “James City” military compound were perhaps even more significant to the history of the region. From 1619 on, African women were also part of the historical tapestry being woven at Jamestown. Brought to Virginia against their will, African women became part of the bound labor force that produced the colony’s “gold”-tobacco. When Virginia created the legal framework for slavery, African women were a central concern because of their potential to reproduce the slave labor force.
Like most European ventures to the New World, the English venture to Virginia was heavily dominated by men in its early years. All of the 104 settlers who sailed up the James River in 1607 were men. This initial group contained a disproportionate number of well-heeled adventurers, a handful of artisans, and only a small number of the agricultural laborers whose practical experience might have helped the fledgling settlement survive its first winter. The maleness of the landing party at Jamestown and the overwhelmingly male character of the settlement in subsequent years had a huge impact on relations with local Native Americans, who belonged to a military alliance overseen by the paramount chief, Powhatan. The small numbers of English women appear to have fanned Powhatan’s hopes that the strangers might be absorbed into his chiefdom through adoption, hospitality, and the provision of food. Powhatan likely masterminded the capture and detention of English commander John Smith in 1608, which concluded with a ritual execution, seemingly stopped by Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas. Smith claimed that the Indian girl had saved his life and years later wrote an account of her intervention that became the basis for the Pocahontas legend.