Mothers of the Mayflower

Mothers of the Mayflower

Nettie H. Francis

One hundred two passengers. Twenty-four children. Nine cats. One cargo ship, ninety feet long. Sixty-four days on a stormy sea. A possible recipe for disaster—at least in this day and age.

If I had set sail with my children, I would have preferred a private room, catered meals, and disposable diapers. And I would have requested a cruise liner instead of a 1620’s trading vessel.

At the end of the voyage I would have demanded my own bed—not an isolated beach inhabited by “savages;” a lonely place where nearly half of their company would be buried that first year.

Why did they do it? What gave them the courage to gamble with their lives under such conditions?

Perhaps there’s a direct relationship between personal sacrifice and results—like a timeless math equation.

If I went on a cruise, what would I become? A little groggy, a little too pampered, a little overweight.

But, what did their demanding voyage produce? A colony. A nation. A better life for their children. The chance to worship God as they pleased, and leave a stagnant life behind.

Of the eighteen women aboard the ship, only five lived to celebrate their first harvest; but their sacrifices are remembered, three hundred and ninety-one Thanksgivings later.

And what of the new life they sought for their children? It was everything they hoped for, and more.

One hundred fifty years later, during a trip back to the Old World, Benjamin Franklin observed that even the poorest American farmers were “princes” when compared to the peasants of Great Britain.

Mothers of the Mayflower, all those stormy, cold, wet days and nights, with sea biscuits and seasick children, I thank you. And my children do, too.

Last April I visited the Mayflower II, near Plymouth, Massachusetts.  
It was small but sturdy. Families were given a sectioned area in the damp hold (about 4'x4') for their personal sleeping space.  The sides of the hold were "sweating," a good sign that the ship was water safe.

 Homes on the Plimoth Plantation (yes, that's the correct spelling) looked down
on the cold, blue Atlantic Ocean.
 A "young lad" tells us about his garden, planted in the rocky soil.
An expectant mother explains about household chores in her drafty, thatched-roof home.

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