tv Penelope Winslow 17th Century Plymouth Colony CSPAN April 16, 2021 10:04am-11:02am EDT
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up next a conversation with the author of the book, "penelope winslow&17th century plymouth colony". the massachusetts historical society provided the video. >> we have a special event this evening. we'll explore the life of plymouth colony first lady penelope winslow. our speaker tonight is michelle marchetti coughlin. she is the author of "one colonial woman's world, the life and writing --" and the book she'll be speaking on tonight. penelope winslow. she recently served as the guest
curator, women of plymouth and as a mass humanity scholar with the falmouth museum on the green. she serves on the board of adams birthplace and museum administrator of boston's gibson house museum. without further ado please join me in welcoming michelle to speak this evening. >> thank you very much gavin, katherine and sarah for arranging this talk. i want to say thank you very much to the massachusetts historical society for this wonderful opportunity. i have been using mhs's resources for years, and their collections, exhibitions, their programs and their staff are outstanding. so thank you mhs. tonight i'm talking about penelope winslow. and i, as a historian, study early american women. because i really feel they've been significantly underrepresented in the telling of america's story. if we're not hearing about how
half the population laid the foundations for -- helped lay the foundations for this country, we're really not getting a full or accurate picture of america's past. so when i first learned about penelope winslow several years ago, i was surprised she wasn't better known as a member of the english gentry and wife to plymouth colony governor josiah winslow, she was arguably one of the most powerful women in plymouth's history. plymouth coal -- colony, as a quick refresher, was founded in 1620 when the pilgrims arrived and lasted until 1692 when it was absorbed by the massachusetts bay. the reason she isn't better known is that it's only been fairly recently that historians have started studying women, because by and large their experiences didn't take place in the public realm and his or theians didn't think their
experiences were worthy of study until the past few decades. but also, penelope, like most of her contemporaries, didn't leave behind much in the way of personal writings. unlike the subject of my first book, there's no diary to mine for details of penelope's life. she does appear in the archival records and she did leave behind a trove of what is generally referred to as material culture. basically anything made or used by people. and in penelope's case, these items range from surviving homes to a -- personal possessions, to archaeological artifacts and when combined to the written sources, they shed light on the lives of the women of the time and on the development of new england. so i'll start by giving you a brief biography of penelope. she was born in 1633 in a village called yours about 70 miles outside of london.
and as i mentioned, she was a member of the english gentry. her father, herbert pelham was descended from various monarchs. and, in fact, penelope's third great grandmother was mary bellin who you may have heard referred to as the other bellin girl. her mother was jemima, involved in british politics for centuries. and in the colonies, among penelope's distinguished relatives in the colonies included the barren delaware, after whom delaware was named, early governors of virginia, and leading settlers of massachusetts bay. these connections were very important to her, and they really helped her form a sense of her place in the world. so we're going to start by showing you some of penelope's family homes. this is her maternal grandparents' home, located near her birthplace, ferriers, which i'll show you in a minute.
but you can see, it's a very grand estate. it has the moat and the deer park. it's smaller than it used to be. it used to be a much larger building. queen elizabeth the i stayed there in 1561. my husband and i were fortunate to visit these homes several years ago. and coincidentally at the time, both were undergoing renovations. the rooms were stripped of furnishings. and you could get a good idea -- >> michelle, sorry to interrupt. i think your powerpoint, if you could put it into presenter mode. we're still on the first slide. >> oh, you are? >> yeah. if you can hit from the beginning on the top -- >> okay. sorry about this. bear with me, please. how about i -- let's see. i'm sorry about this.
>> actually, i'm noticing your cursor on the screen doesn't seem to be moving. there you go. we're all set. thank you. >> can you see the second -- queen elizabeth's room? >> yes. >> great. sorry about that. this is only my second virtual talk. thank you for bearing with the technical difficulties. as i was saying, both smallbridge and farriors were undergoing renovations at the time we visited. so they're really stripped of a lot of their furnishings and you can really get an idea of what the rooms may have looked like during penelope's time. this is farriors, penelope's birthplace. obviously, it's not as grand as smallbridge, but it was absolutely an impressive dwelling for the time period. this picture is misleading. it doesn't show how farriors extends quite far back. it is a very large building. this is a painting of farriors
done as recently as the '60s and it shows the surrounding landscape. so for penelope growing up there, as far as the eye could see was land owned by her family. these are some early architectural features of ferriers. this is a courthouse on the property. this was brought by her mother and her ancestors had used this as a courthouse to settle local grievances. penelope's father was a local justice of the peace. so he probably used it as well. the whole complex was a site that would have reinforced penelope's sense of social, economic and political importance. but when she was 5 years old, her father decided to uproot the family and move to massachusetts. he was actually a merchant adventurer investor in
massachusetts bay. so penelope, her four siblings and her father moved and settled in cambridge. unfortunately her mother appears to have died on the journey. however, the family was quite successful in cambridge which was a leading center of massachusetts at the time. harvard college had recently been founded. herbert pelham early on acquired land. and he rose very quickly through the government, and he also became harvard's first treasurer. however, within a few years he decided he needed to go back to england to settle some property disputes arriving over inheritance issues. the whole family accompanied him with the exception of nathanial, and her brother -- nathanial, penelope's older brother, who was going to remain behind to attend harvard and penelope
herself. it's not clear why she at the age of 13 didn't accompany the family back to england. later it's thought she didn't have the best relationship with her stepmother who her father married shortly after arriving in cambridge. we do know, though, that she probably at this time moved in with her father's sister, another penelope, and her husband, richard bellingham, who's a leading citizen of boston. he would serve as governor for several terms. and the bellingham's home or their mansion house was located on tremlawn street, near where king's chapel is today. living there would have exposed penelope to a host of people and ideas that exponentially broadened her world. we're not sure what her education consisted of, but it would have been overseen by her aunt. it was obviously a very good education as later records testify. we do know that at some point she met josiah winslow here on
the left, became engaged to him. this may have been through her brother nathaniel as josiah attended harvard. he didn't graduate. he was older than nathaniel. but that may have been one connection. also herbert pelham and edward winslow on the right were well known to each other. edward winslow was the pilgrim who came on the mayflower, he served as governor of plymouth colony. he's holding this wonderful letter here. you can't make out much of the writing with the exception of the signature which says from your loving wife susanna, and this is susanna white, his fellow mayflower passenger. both edward and susanna were married to other people on the mayflower voyage. their spouses died the first winter. their wedding became the first wedding that took place in plymouth colony. they had josiah here as well as
a daughter. so i want to talk to you a minute about religion. to broadly simplify, we know that massachusetts bay was settled by people whom we call the puritans. they wanted to purify the church of england. plymouth colony was settled by separatists who wanted to separate from the church of england. both groups were reformed protestants who had a lot of common viewpoints. basically they thought that an individual should have a direct relationship with god as mediated through scripture. when we think of puritans and pilgrims, we have these lingering stereotypes of them as being very sober, serious people. when we take a look at these portraits, they would seem to confirm our ideas. however, we need to take a closer look. so we see josiah and edward wearing black. we think that's because it's a serious, sober color.
however, black was very fashionable at the time these portraits were done. 1651 we know by the date on edward's letter, but we don't know who the artist was. black was very fashionable, and also they are distinguishing themselves, dressing up their outfits with these starch white collars. edward has the white cuffs. they both have gold tassels and edward has the gold buttons. so at this time social status was extremely important, and the social hierarchy. in fact, there were sumptuary laws on the books in england and new england preventing or prohibiting people from dressing above their station. so in these portraits, josiah and edward are clearly trying to make a statement about their wealth and social status. then i want to take a closer look at penelope's portrait. so, as i said, these were
painted in 1651. at the time the english civil war was just coming to an end. two years previously king charles i had been executed by followers of oliver cromwell, a puritan and the parliamentarian forces. the winslows and pelhams were supporters of the puritans and cromwell. we see penelope here and she's dressed very similarly to the wife and daughter of king charles i. on the left is queen henrietta maria. we see the fabrics that penelope is wearing are very similar to those worn by henrietta maria. princess mary stewart, charles's daughter on the right of penelope, the gold choker necklace, her hairstyle and her hood are very similar to mary stewart's. so she's clearly aligning herself with the upper echelons of society.
these portraits were shipped back to plymouth colony, to marshfield where the winslow's homes were, and they were maintained by the family for generations. until the late 1800s, when they were donated to plymouth hall museum. you may be familiar with it. it has the preeminent collection of pilgrim possessions. pilgrim hall museum has many other winslow possessions including several which are associated with penelope. and the most iconic of these is this shoe. so this was formerly a salmon pink color. you can see it has very elaborate silver lace on it. the story of the shoe is that it was worn by penelope at her wedding and worn by subsequent family brides until it was donated to pilgrim hall in the 19th century.
so the two shoes -- there were two shoes and they became separated in the 19th century. a stir was caused as recently as the 1990s when the owner -- descendant owner of the second shoe found out about the existence of this one at pilgrim hall and arranged for both shoes to be shown together. but recently, interpretation of the shoes has shifted dramatically with the revelation that they were actually made for a man. they weren't worn by penelope at her wedding, they were likely josiah's fancy indoor slippers. so when i first started researching penelope, i happened to have a conversation with the then curator of pilgrim hall museum, stephen o'neil, and he mentioned to me a british footwear historian had been to the museum and mentioned she thought the shoe at pilgrim hall was actually a man's shoe.
of courts, i had to follow up on that. i obtained the opinions of three fashion -- historic fashion experts on the shoe, and they all concurred that the shoe was made in the mid 1600s for a man. so there's a lesson here for us that we have to be very careful about bringing contemporary gender -- ideas about -- contemporary ideas about gender to historical artifacts. this story is also emblematic of a larger theme in penelope's story and also with the study of early american women, that new pieces of information are continually cropping up and new sources of information. so we just -- it's an ongoing story which makes it exciting. knowing the story about the shoe, that meant that i had to really check up on every item that i looked at. of course, this is not a derogatory comment on pilgrim
hall at all. they do a fabulous job. they're constantly researching their possessions, their collections, but their collection is so vast and so many of the things were given to them such a long time ago. these you just want to show you, on the left here, these are some -- not as ornate as the other slippers, but they are formerly salmon pink and just, again, made for a man. ironically, the winslow shoe at pilgrim hall is displayed close to these baby shoes worn by josiah. on the left here we have a purse that penelope is supposed to have made on a sea voyage. i checked out the date of this purse and fashion experts -- historic fashion experts confirmed that the date was good, it coincided with penelope's lifetime. of course, we don't know for sure whether she made it on a voyage.
to the right is what called a bodkin, it's a silver blunt edge needle with the initials p.w. on it. it did get passed down through the family. odds are that it was penelope's. this is a very intimate item because she would have used it to lays up her clothing. also, it made me think of penelope as a mother, because at the time there weren't maternity clothes, women would take in their clothes or let them out when they were pregnant. penelope didn't have an easy time having children. her first surviving child, a daughter named elizabeth was born in 1664. so around 13 years after the time of her marriage, and her only other surviving child, a son named isaac was born in 1671, so 20 years following her marriage. we're very fortunate in that archaeological excavations have
been done at the site of penelope and josiah's home. so following their marriage. we're not sure if they were married in new england or in london. but they do return to marshfield where edward and susanna winslow had lived. so penelope and josiah originally move in with susanna. edward is in london. he goes over in 1646. he becomes involved in cromwell's government. he never returns to new england. he dies while he's on a military mission. he dies at sea while he's on this military mission on behalf of cromwell. so in 1665 josiah inherits the bulk of the estate. at some point he builds the house for himself and penelope which is located nearby. so originally, the first archaeological excavation done at the site was done in 1940 by henry horn been -- hornblower,
who went on to form plymouth foundation.blower, who went on o form plymouth foundation. we can look at this plan that was done by later archaeologists, and we see that the house has a typical layout for the time except it's much larger. it's a grander home. but it has this hall that was common in the 17th century. it's a bigger room where daily life took place. we also have the parlor. it's a more formal room where not only entertaining is done, but also business is conducted. so at this time we don't have the formal -- the distinction between formal -- i'm sorry. we don't have the formal distinction between public and private that we do now. houses were public sites. men were conducting businesses from their home. so there's a term deputy husband where it's an acknowledgment of women's familiarity with their husband's business. so men would recognize that, if a man was not around to conduct business, he wife could act in his stead because women were so
cognizant of what was going on in the home. and so -- business going on in the home. in josiah's case, he's not only conducting his own commercial enterprises, but he is also very active in plymouth government. from the 1650s on he becomes active and becomes a successor to miles standish as military leader of plymouth colony and eventually becomes governor in 1673. so we have to think of penelope's role -- a lot of his government business is taking place from the home. so she -- and also josiah is traveling a lot on business. so she has this role as a gatekeeper. she has acknowledged influence. men will come to the house, seeking to talk to josiah. they know she can mediate access to him. she can mediate messages that are given to him. so she has a lot of power in this respect.
also, this is something that we rarely think about, but there are women coming to the house, seeking favors and opportunities on their husband's behalf. there's this other whole community of women that's interacting and they're having an effect on the larger government, even though it's an indirect one. it's just something we should take into consideration. as i said, pilgrim hall has a lot of family possessions that kind of round out this picture that we get of the winslows and their social and economic status. this is a great chair at pilgrim hall. it would have had a cushion. we can see josiah perched on it, being very authoritative, conducting his government business. i'm showing this delft plate here. it speaks to a -- a larger theme. so we have this -- another enduring stereotype of plymouth
colony being back wards and insular and not connected to the outside world. that's not the case at all. there was a lot of transatlantic trade going on. you can see it in this fine dutch plate that was at the winslow's house, but also in archaeological artifacts that are found not just in high ranking homes or in the remains of high ranking homes, but in lower -- much more -- people much more simple, lower economic backgrounds. archaeologists have found -- not fine ceramics, but ceramics that have definitely been imported. i'm showing you here, this is a very iconic item, too, this white cradle. this is supposedly brought over on the mayflower by susanna white winslow. she was one of three women pregnant on the voyage. she gave birth to peregrine. the first english child born in
new england. this cradle passed down through the winslow family and may have been used by penelope. this is the vast collection of archaeological artifacts from the winslow site. these are in the collections of plymouth plantation, which is now -- it's recently changed its name to plymouth patuxet to acknowledge the long native influence in the area -- or long native history. so we have these items in the archaeology that kind of round out the information that we get from the surviving possessions and the portraits. so kind of connecting penelope to fashion and the ability she may have had as a needle woman. we have this fine bone needle case, which actually still -- found by archaeologists still containing pins. we have scissors here. and, of course, these items date from the time of penelope's residence at the house. we can't be 100% sure they were
hers. some of them very likely were. then this strange item in the middle speaks to her wearing of high status clothing because it's called a goth ring specifically used to iron ruffles. and over here we have a knife and there are numerous knives and spoons that were found on the property. no forks, because they were not widely used in the colonies yet. but also, archaeologists have even identified bones -- animal bones identified on the property. so we have an idea of what the winslow's diet was like. so these great insights we can get when we combine the written record and the archeological record. so like good english people, they favored beef and pork. these are just some items that give incites into child life. this is a silver whistle that has the initials e.w. engraved on it. perhaps it belonged to their daughter elizabeth. and then we have a marble.
now, what's also wonderful about this site is that there are -- there's a host of native artifacts. some of these artifacts are thousands of years old, showing the long native presence in the area. these are so helpful to have, because the native presence in the written records is often very biased because it's being written by the colonists. so this is -- looking at native archaeology is another way to get insights into their culture and history. but we also have artifacts that speak to a history of cross-cultural exchange. so the items on top are pieces of metal that were taken from kettles that were used in trade with the colonists. so the colonists would trade brass and koppel kettles with the natives. and the natives would sometimes take the kettles apart and repurpose the metal to be used for projectile points or for
jewelry. and then down here on the bottom right we have this spoon and this is a great spoon because you can tell the user had been right-handed because it has a pattern of wear on the left. it's also an interesting item because it's called a seal top spoon. it was used not only for eating, but for sealing correspondence. and then above it we have a spoon handle. so the bowl has been removed by a native person and the handle has been sharpened to a point to be used as some sort of tool. then we have in the archeological sites native pottery, showing that the colonists are using native pottery. so there is a history of exchange of technologies and information that's really illuminating when you look at early plymouth and archeologists are continuing to work on this and so we're finding new information all the time. so when we speak of the native peoples, we have to talk about
the winslow family's and plymouth colony's and new england's very complex relationship with native people. so we know about the fabled friendship that edward winslow had with the native leader we know as massasoit. massasoit just means great leader. so edward winslow not only had personal relationships with native peoples, but he was interested in their customs and their language. he tried to learn their languages. josiah didn't have the same interests. he didn't have the same personal interests and he also didn't have the same diplomatic skills. and, of course, by this time, this is the second generation of plymouth settlement. so the communities are growing, encroachment on native lands is growing. there's pressure on native peoples to convert to christianity. and so all of these tensions eventually erupt into what is known as king phillips war in 1675.
and this is a really devastating conflict and this was the signature event of josiah's governorship. it breaks out in 1675 and ends in 1676 and there's great destruction on both sides. now, there were two events leading up to king phillips war that historians often point to as being pivotal as to its outbreak. and penelope was a participant in both events, although her presence at these events is often overlooked. it's almost always overlooked. so the first event takes place in 1662 before josiah was governor. as a military leader, he was sent by the plymouth government to go bring wamsutta, also known as alexander.
massasuta has died at this point, so wamsutta is now the leader. josiah is sent to bring him to plymouth to allege he's stole land contrary to a treaty, and also that he's conspiring with against the colonists. so josiah finds him, he's with his wife, and they are with a group of their family. and so it's decided that they and their family will spend the night at penelope and josiah's house before going on to plymouth. so this is just such a fascinating scenario to consider from penelope's perspective, but also at this time there were these very important rituals of hospitality among the upper classes. so i just wonder, did penelope extend the same level of hospitality that she would have to her high-ranking english guests. i hope she did.
but also just thinking about power. and so penelope had a lot of informal power in plymouth, but weetamoo was the acknowledged leader of her people and penelope with her euro centric viewpoint, wouldn't have recognized that or acknowledged that, but it was the case in the larger scheme of things. so just important to consider. so, unfortunately, things don't go well with the visit because wamsutta becomes ill, josiah sends for the local physician, who may have, unfortunately, actually harmed wamsutta instead of helped him. it's decided he needs to go home and he'll return at another time to answer these charges to go to plymouth. he gets home and, unfortunately, he dies soon afterwards and it's believed by his brother, also known as phillip who is the next
leader and also by his wife, wetamoo that he's been poisoned, either by the doctor or josiah. so then fast forwarding to late 1774 when josiah is governor and a native christian minister, harvard educated christian minister named john, who has tied to both phillip and the colonists, arrives at josiah and penelope's home to warn josiah about phillip's plans to attack. so we can just imagine, you know, penelope possibly answering the door, possibly serving him refreshments, but absolutely discussing the nature of his visit with her husband, with josiah, afterwards in light of what happens as a result. so john sassamon tries to warn josiah. josiah has received similar warnings that haven't come to fruition, so he doesn't believe
john sassamon, even though he says i fear for my life coming here. so he leaves. a few weeks later his body is found and it's believed by the colonists that he's been murdered by agents of phillip. shortly thereafter, three native men with ties to phillip are arrested, imprisoned, tried and executed. not long afterwards, king phillips war breaks out. so josiah, knowing that phillip has this personal animosity towards him, writes this letter to massachusetts bay governor, john levrit, it's this very dramatic letter. it says, i've sent away my family. so he decides that penelope and their 11-year-old daughter, elizabeth, and 4-year-old son isaac, are not safe at the house. so penelope and her children go stay with his sister in salem
and like many people on both sides become war refugees. so josiah writes this letter saying, i've fortified my home and i will hold it as long as a man will stand by me. what's chilling is that the testimony of the landscape of the home site bears this out because there are post holes that show that the site had, in fact, been fortified. there are numerous pipes dating from this time period that were likely left by the soldiers on guard. there are bullets, there are pieces of guns, armor, there's also josiah with his pension for high-style -- high-style, you know, bridal bits and belt buckles that he would have used for his straps for guns. so it's just so fascinating how you can get this other layer of insight from looking at archeology in combination with the written records.
so king phillips war comes to a close the following year, in 1676. and it has had a devastating impact on plymouth. there's been great loss of life, great loss of property. it takes years for them to recover financially. but for the native peoples, the consequences are just that much more dire. there's loss of traditional homelands, communities are broken up, as are families, and many natives are sold into slavery and things are never the same for the native people. so it's just this watershed moment. so in the wake of king phillips war, penelope returns home and she uses her personal connections to try and help josiah repair his relationship with king charles ii, who has been on the throne since 1660.
king charles wants to know why this terrible conflict broke out. so josiah writes this report and he also arranges to send phillip, who has been killed during the war, his military regalia. to king charles. this is not an accurate depiction of phillip. this was done 100 years later by paul revere. he chose this fabulous wampum belt, so there were two very impressive wampum belts. so penelope enlists her brother, who has inherited the family home ferriers, she enlists him to bring these items that, the wampum belts and the report, to court. however, walter is unworthy of the trust because the items never make it there. and it's been this enduring
mystery what happened to these wampm belts that are very important to the wampanoag people. when my husband and i were in new england, we discussed it with the owners. they know about the story of the wampum belts because there's been a theory that he kept them and buried them or hid them on the property. but there's a scholar who has been working on an exhibit with wampum belts and she's done a lot of research, and she's looking for them, too. so i really hope she's able to find them. so king phillips war has taken a terrible toll on josiah's health. he dies four years later at the age of 52. penelope is supposed to have commissioned this mourning ring to commemorate his passing. this is a very high-style ring. we can see remnants of what is presumably his hair.
in the ring, it has john coney's makers mark inside the ring. john coney was a gold and silver smith in boston. there's no inscription, so even though it did pass down through the family, we can't be 100% sure that the story behind this ring is true, although it is quite possibly true, but we can't say for sure. but we do know that penelope had a very difficult time with josiah's passing. there is a surviving letter from a plymouth colony secretary, nathaniel wharton that is in the collections of the historical society, in the winslow papers, it's this wonderful document. and nathaniel wharton writes to penelope and he's trying to console her on the loss of josiah. we don't have any letters between josiah and penelope that survive. in his will, josiah gave penelope broad powers over the
estate. at this time the widows typically received a one-third of their personal property and one-third interest in their real estate. but josiah leaves penelope in charge of everything. he gives her the power to sell land if she needs to. so he clearly has great faith in her abilities of land management, which would have shown during the years that he was governor and was traveling so much and she had to oversee the property. so penelope remains a widow for the final 23 years of her life and she does rise to the occasion, she overcomes her grief, she manages to educate her children, oversee the property. she also wages two legal battles late in life to reclaim family properties. one of them she conducts as late as 1703, right before her death. she writes a petition to massachusetts governor, joseph dudley, so, again, it's an
amazing document and it reflects her knowledge of legal matters and does reflect, again, the excellent education she must have had. so this issue is resolved -- ultimately resolved in her favor, but not until after her death. so we're not sure what happens to penelope and josiah's home. the stories that it burned down late in the 1600s, which is quite possibly true, and then there's a story that she may have gone to live in this house, built by her son isaac in the late 1600s for the late years of her life. this is in marshfield and it's open to the public. again, she may have lived here for the final years of her life. we're not quite sure. after her death, her memory continues to be honored by her descendants. in fact, a number of her
descendants during the revolutionary war remain loyalists. and you can see in the records there is a strong attachment to their british lineage. it's so interesting how her heritage and her influence did have these lasting repercussions. generations of winslows were still named penelope and pelham. and there are still penelopes around today. and her female relatives in particular, they care for the family history, the heritage, the heirlooms. this is very true in many families that women are the preservers of family heritage and history, but also larger pieces of the historical record. and i just want to show you one last material item having to do with penelope's story. this is a commemorative marker placed in the early 20th century at the home sites of both winslow families.
so the stone just honors governors edward and josiah. it makes no mention of either susanna winslow or penelope. it's so heavily symbolic of the covering up of women's history, the erasure of women's history. that's taken place over the years. so in conclusion, i just want to say that i really feel that the use of material culture, in addition to traditional written records, not only has the power to shed light on the life of an elite individual like penelope, but also more ordinary people who had an impact on their time. there are so many important, yet overlooked stories, that we need to recover. it's up to us to find the ways to tell these stories. so thank you very much and i'll be happy to take any questions. >> thank you very much for a very informative talk. i just would like to remind the audience members that we use the q&a function.
if you're using a mac or a pc is typically at the bottom of the screen, in the middle. if you're using a tablet, it may be off to the side. so we have a couple of questions, although i would certainly encourage others to submit more. one question was, it is difficult to find the voice of people who have not left extensive papers. did you have a moment of feeling like you found the voice of penelope winslow or just sort of an ah-ha, or i hear her kind of moment? >> that's a very good question. so yes, i think the -- well, the portrait, just spending some time thinking about the portrait and how she depicts herself there. so that, i think, gave me a lot of insight into how she identified herself. but also the legal documents that i talk about where she's trying to reclaim the family inheritances, she is a woman, and land typically passes down through men, but she's claiming
this land and she feels like she has a strong right to it. she has a very strong sense of herself. and her associated rights. so i think seeing the portrait and those legal documents were the one -- especially the one where you could really hear her voice. those are where i really got a sense of who she -- you know, as i said, the privileges and the rights that she thought she was entitled to. >> great. we also had a question that said to ask you how you feel your work intersects with the work of laurel urlich. >> so, actually, yes, i was very inspired by her work very early on. in fact, you know, a midwives tale actually got me so interested in women's diaries that that led me -- got me on my -- started with my first
>> so pli plymouth women had so rights that the indians didn't have, and one was this dowry right that a woman was given a third of her husband's personal property so the things, the movables, and also life interest in the real estate. this became a right increment. so if a widow felt she wasn't given her proper thirds, as she
would refer to it, she would go to court and they would take her claim very seriously because they wanted to make sure widows were taken care of. but also widows often took over their husband's business. this is true throughout the colonies. so you see widows' roles and businesses you might not typically associate with women, things using shiprights, so there's all kinds of things they fall into because their husbands have passed. i don't want to project contemporary attitudes that women grow up saying, i want to be a shipwright. there were lots of women merchants holding other roles
like midwives, teachers. they did have rights, and you find several wealthy, well-to-do widows in plymouth. >> i think that paints sort of a more complex picture than just an assumption. >> mistress elizabeth warren, you know, one of the very early women, she was very well known for the property she accumulated, and she was very respected in the community. where would one find out more about indentured servants? >> if that person wants to get in touch with me, i could give a list of places for them to look.
i do have a website, and my e-mail is on the website which is m1comp at colonial doiblgt. >> great. thank you. judging by the time of the year that we're in, we have to ask, we have thanksgiving next week just a short time from now. what do you think penelope of how we celebrate today? what would she think of how the story is presented? >> i think it's so hard to project -- this is one thing. it's so complex. this is why i like studying early america, because it's so complex. from generation to generation to region depending on people's
religious background, ethnicity, so i just wouldn't be able to put words in her mouth. on the board of the abby adams birthplace, so i was thinking how would first lady abby l. adams and first lady penelope winslow, would they even be able to talk to each other, because there is a generation's difference between them. and just societies, viewpoints have changed, women's roles have changed. just over the colonial period, so much has changed. my answer is actually one of my takeaways, is that it's such a complex period of time, and so we really -- you know, we really can't summarize without looking at real details and specifics. >> eric wrote, speaking of details and specifics, does
penelope show up in plymouth county as a witness of any deeds or wills or dowry releases by her husband or any court documents as a result of his death? >> that was a great moment when i found this deed from the 1660s that was witnessed by pe pe penelope and the wife of miles standish, but it was actually an important piece of plymouth colony infrastructure. it just shows how women are participating behind the scenes in making these things happen. so because of these activities, different business activities and government activities were taking place from the home,
other family things witnessed things. she had an aunt who visited, a half-brother who visited, so they would occasionally witness deeds. that's a great way to learn about, you know, again, kind of a back doorway to learn about that time period, to look at who is putting these deeds or documents in progress, and who is witnessing these things, too, so who is in the background? it's also just a matter of getting different perspectives, trying to think about these events from a multitude of perspectives. >> so another guest said, are there other women in the colony during the time you're interested in researching? these are often large undertakings and it's hard to track these people down. >> yeah, so i did a lot of
research in conjunction with -- i helped pilgrims hobby with a woman's exhibit, and because of covid it's up longer than it's supposed to be. they've been closed and they're open for a few weeks so the exhibit is still up. it's a great exhibit because it's not just the 1770s, it's not just pilgrim women, it's women throughout the centuries. there are lots of women in that colony that are fascinating, and not just the mayflower women but different time periods, so an accumulation of information along the way, but my next book project is under wives in general, the wives of the colonial governor, so when i was working on the book about penelope, i got interested in thinking about how do other women in her position, colonial
governments' wives, how did they exert power? i'm looking at it from the original 13 colonies in the original united states. so many stories are there. >> so we probably only have time for one last question, but jay said, will you remind us of the relationship between peregrine white and edward winslow? >> yes, so peregrine was the son of susannah white and her first husband and then she married edward winslow. that was her second marriage. is to edward winslow her
stepfather. >> thank you very much for a really informative talk. weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight milton jones recalls his experiences as a u.s. marine during the vietnam war. he talks about his reluctance to serve in vietnam. part of vietnam war histories for the veterans history project. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on
c-span3. >> 60 years ago this weekend, more than 1400 cuban exiles launched a failed invasion to overthrow fidel castro's communist government in cuba at the bay of pigs, live saturday, 9:00 a.m. eastern. we'll look back at the invasion and its consequences with former cia historian nicholas dumovich. and on sunday for reel america, an edited version of the 1961 nbc report "cuba, bay of pigs." president john f. kennedy's 1961 speech after the failed invasion, complicated newsreels on the cuba revolution through the bay of pigs invasion. and a 1960 broadcast, "cuba, the battle of america." exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on