Five years ago I was one of the millions of American women addicted to Sarah Ban Breathnach's wildly popular book Simple Abundance, which became a massive New York Times best-seller. A week ago, I decided to treat myself to Peace and Plenty, her new book about finding one's path to financial serenity. It was written, in part, to share the story of how she essentially lost her marriage, her money and her home, but learned to come to terms with what money. security and wealth really mean.
Midway through her book I stumbled upon her thoughts about the pilgrims, which reminded me of how much I'd enjoyed Gail Collins' look at Colonial life in her amazing book America's Women. And since all of us have had our share of economic challenges during the recession, I thought it might be worthwhile to remind ourselves what women who came to our shores 391 years ago were experiencing.
First of all, the 19 adult women (18 of whom were married) aboard the Mayflower had made the passage in the company of 83 other passengers. Their trip from England took ten weeks, and after they landed the men went off to explore while the women and children were left on board with a skeleton crew. During this time, one woman (22-year old Dorothy May Bradford) fell overboard to her death; some reports said she "slipped," but others said it was suicide.
A year later, only four women had survived. Here's how Sarah Ban Breathnach writes about these Pilgrim women: "Four very tired women who needed to take care of 50 men and children daily. With the men almost entirely focused on building houses and the village, the women had so many chores, they performed them in shifts. For aside from cleaning and cooking, there was plowing and planting, preserving and putting away, caring for the livestock, making soap and candles, tending the stock and creating herb medicinals...if they didn't drop dead with their hand to the plow or wither away away in a nighttime sweat from a succession of diseases contracted on the voyage, they took it as a sign that God meant for them to go on.
"...Sometimes in life, and today might be one of those days for you, all we can do is put one foot out of bed in the morning, and then in front of the other, literally...I figure if you wake up in the morning, you're meant to go on...All women are endowed with the same spiritual DNA as our Pilgrim mothers - a genetic code of resilience and strength, ingenuity and creativity, perseverance and determination."
Both these gifted authors deserve a standing ovation for reminding us of the Pilgrims who paved the way for us to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that are the envy of less-fortunate women everywhere.
Looking forward to your comments...