Ann Burras Laydon, came to Jamestown 1608

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settlers trade in corn
Colonists trade for corn
photo 1607. A Nation Takes Root

Indian women of the Powhatan society interacted with the colonists from the start, accompanying male emissaries sent to the Fort by Chief Powhatan — at times bringing food which saved the settlers from starvation.  From 1619 on, African women — brought to Virginia against their will — were also a vital part of the female history of Jamestown.

Edwin Sandys
Edwin Sandys promoted the
role of women in the settlement.

By 1619 settlers were being granted parcels of land — the number of acres depended on their standing and the length of time they had been in Virginia if they arrived before 1616. The men asked that land also be allotted to their wives "...because that in a newe plantation it is not knowen whether man or woman be the more necessary."

In 1619, ordering "...a fit hundredth might be sent of women, maids young and uncorrupt, to make wives to the inhabitants and by that means to make the men there more settled and less movable..." the Virginia Company of London hoped the unmarried men would settle and remain in Virginia. Approximately 90 single women arrived the next year. Apparently, others followed in 1621, because in May of 1622 the Virginia Company reported that, "the previous year (1621) 57 young maids have been sent to make wives for the planters, divers of which were well married before the coming away of the ships."

Ann Burras Laydon was the first of many courageous women who left family, friends, and England for an unknown, daunting future.

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Copyright 2007