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TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia

Special Exhibition Opening November 10, 2018
Jamestown Settlement

Women’s roles in the events of early Virginia history were rarely recorded. History gives us only fragments of their lives – a name here, a date of arrival there, a court case, a marriage or a death. Some of their stories have never been told. 

20171206-JYF-logo “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” a special yearlong exhibition opening November 10 at Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia history and culture, will explore little-known, captivating personal stories of real women in Jamestown and the early Virginia colony and their tenacious spirit and impact on a fledgling society.

The special exhibition is a legacy project of the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, a national observance of the 400th anniversary of key historical events that occurred in Virginia in 1619 and continue to influence America today.

Ferrar Papers interactive screen. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo.

A Ferrar Papers interactive, presented near the original Ferrar Papers on loan from the Master and Fellows of Magdalene College Cambridge, will allow visitors to gain insight to the 56 women listed in the 1621 Ferrar Papers with the touch of a screen.

This story-driven special exhibition will feature artifacts, images, interactives and primary sources – some on display in America for the first time – to examine the struggles women faced in the New World and their contributions. Visitors will hear stories of the first English women in the Virginia colony beginning in 1608 and the Powhatan Indian women they encountered. Exhibits will examine stories of the first documented African woman, Angelo, to arrive in Virginia in 1619, and the Virginia Company of London’s effort that same year to encourage the growth of the Jamestown colony by recruiting single English women. From women’s roles to women’s rights, the exhibition will connect issues of the 17th century and their relevance today.

Discover stories of Anne Burras Laydon, an English woman who arrived in 1608 at the age of 14 as a maidservant; Cockacoeske, a Virginia Indian woman who was recognized by the colonial government as the “Queen of the Pamunkey” and ruled until her death in 1686; and Mary Johnson, an African woman who arrived in 1623 and labored on a Southside Virginia plantation and later gained her freedom and became a landowner in Virginia.

Along with the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s collection of 17th-century objects, the special exhibition will feature more than 60 artifacts on loan from 22 international and national institutions, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Museum of London, Master and Fellows of Magdalene College Cambridge, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, National Archives, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

“TENACITY” Programs & Events

A series of special programs, from public lectures to performances, will complement the special exhibition through January 5, 2020. Among them is “Mother Tongue,” an original play written by regional Emmy-award Tenacious women - Virginia Indian, African and English women reflected in TENACITY exhibition. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation photo. winning scriptwriter Abigail Schumann. The play tells the story of three women whose lives and cultures intersected at Jamestown who come together to consider if, and how, the future will remember them and why it matters. “Mother Tongue,” made possible in part by Dominion Energy, will debut in May 2019 at Jamestown Settlement and travel to other venues in Virginia.

About Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement explores the world of America’s first permanent English colony and the Powhatan Indian, English and west central African cultures that converged in the 17th century. Through comprehensive and immersive indoor exhibits and outdoor living-history experiences, discover life in the Jamestown colony and its first century as Virginia’s capital.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (until 6 p.m. June 15-August 15), Jamestown Settlement is located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. Parking is free.


2018 admission is $17.00 for adults, $8.00 for ages 6 through 12 (2019: $17.50 for adults, $8.25 for ages 6-12), and free for children under 6. A value-priced combination ticket to Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is $25.50 for adults and $12.25 for ages 6-12 (2019: $26.00 for adults, $12.50 ages 6-12).  Admission for residents of York County, James City County and the City of Williamsburg.

“TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia” is a public-private partnership funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia, James City County and 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, with additional support from the Robins Foundation.