Leaving and Arriving by Jan Rae

So we have come to our end of the first year (and more) of Charting the Mayflower workshops where we have explored what seems like every aspect of leaving a familiar environment. We have got to know many of the passengers – saints, strangers, servants and children – and come to terms with how they survived. We have done the ‘Measurings’ where the Mayflower was represented in local parks (more to come) and tried hard to get into the emotions and feelings of those who had embarked on this adventure and what it could have been like to leave all that was so familiar and safe and go to a new world, with no idea of what they would have to deal with on arrival.

So gradually the workshops are moving to explore the ‘arrivals’. Our first exercise of the final evening before the summer break was to reflect about what we did when we arrived in a new place, and then present and act out those discussions to the rest of the group.

This was done through an illustrated lecture with the ‘arriver’ acting it out, providing a visual representation. It was a great way of comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences. Several of us for instance started instantly chatting with and getting to know the locals, others of us tended to keep ourselves more contained until we were comfortable in our environment. Many of us were keen to check out our surroundings to ensure we felt safe and comfortable in our new environment.

So is this how the travellers encountered Cape Cod? What we learnt was that on arrival the men took off in the only boat to explore the hinterland of Cape Cod, leaving the women behind. The men were gone for three days and we tried to envisage and enact what the women would have been doing on the Mayflower while they were gone.

We explored the various groupings of the women (those with very young children, those with teenagers, those women who were older). We agreed that opportunities for different activities were limited, comprising of looking after the children, stopping the teenagers from getting to restless by setting them tasks, fishing, cooking, sewing and praying.

And a pause for thought before we split up for the summer – we read a passage from research into the role of colonial women in the early 17th century (who were basically the property of the men) which was compared with the role of the indigenous women who had a far wider role to play; trading, hunting, and being much more equal partners. There is much to review and research when we re-convene in September.

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