Englishwomen Pave the Way in America

Englishwomen Pave the Way in America
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My recent trip to England caused me to think about women who undertook the ocean voyage to come to the colonies in the 1600s – quite a different experience for them and for the enslaved women who took the Middle Passage than the airplane flight I took! Their actions paved the way for the rights and privileges that women in the U.S. enjoy today. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. In 1648, she appeared before the Maryland legislature to request two votes for herself in her role as a landowner and Lord Baltimore’s attorney.

____ 2. The first female poet in the New World.

____ 3. She ran a grist mill after her husband’s death and owned land in the Plymouth colony, both very unusual for a woman.

____ 4. The first landowner in the New World and the first woman to establish a village.

____ 5. The only woman hung for religious freedom in the U.S., her crime was espousing the Quaker faith.

  1. Mary Dyer
  2. Mistress Sarah Jenney
  3. Margaret Brent
  4. Anne Bradstreet
  5. Lady Deborah Moody

The only woman to be hung in the U.S. in the quest for religious freedom, Mary Dyer, emigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1630s. Dyer had begun her religious reform efforts in England, but came to the U.S. as pressure increased on the Puritans from the British king. As advocates for religious leader Anne Hutchinson, Dyer and her husband left to join her in what is today Rhode Island after she was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for her religious beliefs. After a trip to England, Dyer returned to the colonies having converted to the Quaker faith. This faith was not accepted in Massachusetts and, in fact, laws had been enacted against its practice. Dyer defied the laws and was hanged, one of the four people known as the Boston martyrs. Today, a statue of her is found on the grounds of the Boston, Massachusetts statehouse and she has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Arriving at the Plymouth Colony in 1623, Mistress Sarah Jenney and her husband John, both English, had been married in the Netherlands. They established a grist mill in Plymouth, which upon John Jenney’s death in 1644, was willed to Sarah Jenney. She ran the grist mill and in 1651 was noted as a land owner in the Plymouth Colony. These are both significant events for women – very few ran businesses or owned land.

Emigrating to the Maryland settlement in 1638 with one of her sisters and two of her brothers, Margaret Brent, would become a prominent land owner and businesswoman. In 1648, she appeared before the Maryland legislature and requested two votes for herself – one for herself as a landowner and one in her role as Lord Baltimore’s attorney. Brent’s request was denied. She served as the executor of Lord Leonard Calver’s estate after his death and her actions in that role enabled the colony to survive. Brent has been inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame.

The first female poet of the New World, Anne Bradstreet, was the first poet and first woman to have a book published in the colonies. In 1630, she and her family emigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay colony. Her volume of work was originally published in London by her brother-in-law who took her poems without her permission. The American edition was published in 1678. She wrote her poems while raising eight children and serving as hostess for her husband, who became the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The first female landowner in the New World, Lady Deborah Moody, was also the first woman to establish a village – Gravesend, today part of Brooklyn in New York City. Moody left England due to religious persecution and arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. Not welcome there, due to her religious beliefs, Moody found a more welcoming environment in New Netherland, administered by the Dutch. Here she was the recipient of a land grant and her village was also granted religious freedom.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These Englishwomen who paved the way in America for the women of today are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell their stories and help write them back into history.

(Answers 1-C, 2-D, 3-B, 4-E, 5-A)

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