Saturday, December 28, 2013

“Not past sixtie men, women, and children . . . .”

John Smith wrote that after the “Starving Time” in the winter of 1609-1610 “there remained not past sixtie men, women and children” in the fort. But for decades, historians believed the Virginia colonist Robert Beverley’s 1705 estimate of “five hundred men” who were “reduced to three score.”
            Beverley wrote of “men.”  No women. But John Smith said there were women in Virginia, and he was there. Unfortunately, he did not say how many, and since he had to leave Virginia October 1609 he had no way of knowing how many of those women lived through the Starving Time that winter. We now know from other sources that at least six females--four women, a little girl, and an infant--survived, because we know their names.
            One who did not survive was the still nameless fourteen-year-old girl whose recently discovered remains were cannibalized--but she was not the only English victim of cannibalism. She was not the only woman victim, either.             
The story of that one (another female) was in plain view for four centuries, but generations of (male) historians overlooked it when they wrote about "men" at Jamestown.


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