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The Jamestown Brides The Story of England's "Maids for Virginia"

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2019-06-03
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Jamestown, England's first real foothold in the New World, was fraught with danger -- from starvation and disease to violent skirmishes between colonists and the native populations. Mortality rates were impossibly high: Six out of seven settlers died within the first few years. How clear these and other perils were made to the fifty-six young women who left their homes and boarded ships in England in 1621, nearly fifteen years after Jamestown's founding, is not known. But we do know who they were. Their ages ranged from sixteen to twenty-eight, and they were deemed "young and uncorrupt." Each had a bride price of 150 pounds of tobacco set by the Virginia Company, which funded their voyage. Though the women had all gone of their own free will, they were to be sold into marriage, generating a profit for investors and helping ensure the colony's long-term viability.

Without letters or journals (young women from middling classes had not generally been taught to write), Jennifer Potter turned to the Virginia Company's merchant lists -- which were used as a kind of sales catalog for prospective husbands -- as well as censuses, court records, the minutes of Virginia's General Assemblies, letters to England from their male counterparts, and other such accounts of the everyday life of the early colonists. In The Jamestown Brides, she spins a fascinating tale of courage and survival, exploring the women's lives in England before their departure and their experiences in Jamestown. Some were married before the ships left harbor. Some were killed in an attack by the native population only months after their arrival. A few never married at all. In telling the story of these "Maids for Virginia" Potter sheds light on life for women in early modern England and in the New World.

Author Biography

Jennifer Potter is author of four novels and five works of nonfiction, most recently Strange Blooms, The Rose: A True History and Seven Flowers. As Royal Literary Fund (RFL) Consultant Fellow, she inspires good writing among doctoral students and younger academics, and she was recently appointed one of the first RLF Fellows at the British Library.

Table of Contents

Preface: Witness
A note on the text

Part One: England and its Virginian Colony
Chapter 1: The Marmaduke Maids
Chapter 2: The Warwick Women
Chapter 3: A Woman's Place
Chapter 4: Point of Departure
Chapter 5: Of Hogs and Women
Chapter 6: La Belle Sauvage
Chapter 7: Maids to the Rescue

Intermezzo: Maidens' Voyage
Chapter 8: When Stormie Winds do Blow
Chapter 9: Land ho!

Part Two: Virginia
Chapter 10: Arrival at Jamestown
Chapter 11: The Choosing
Chapter 12: Dispersal
Chapter 13: Catastrophe
Chapter 14: The End of the Affair
Chapter 15: The Crossbow Maker's Sister
Chapter 16: The Planter's Wife
Chapter 17: The Cordwainer's Daughter
Chapter 18: Captured by Indians

Endnote: Return to Jamestown
Appendix: A List of the Maids
List of Illustrations

Supplemental Materials

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The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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