The following book review was written by Bobbi King:
Vessels, The Women and Children of Plymouth Colony
By Donna A. Watkins. Publ. by American History Press (Staunton, Va.), 2021. 317 pages.
The author hWeakeras a sympathetic sense for the women and children of the Massachusetts Plymouth Colony. She wishes them remembered and commemorated as important and vital members of the first community, despite their immutable roles of subservience and struggles on a daily basis made arduous by the men who at least could feel in charge of their destinies and not under the rule and thumb of another class of citizens.
The prologue offers a brief overview and history of Plymouth Colony. Then on to the first chapter, where “Martyrs of the Mayflower,” describes the voyage with emphasis on the toll for the women, and relates the fate of the More Children, four children whose father paid enough to a stranger-merchant to take the children off his own negligent hands into the harsh, cold dangers of the sea voyage. Additional stories about other women and children of the Mayflower populate the chapter.
In “Laws and Standards,” we read about the setup of the colonial government and courts, and how the appointed custodians, all male of course, settled egregious punishments upon the women for such transgressions as “for her uncivil and outrageous railing words and carriages to the Deputy Governor, and afterwards before the whole court.”
Chapters cover marriage, fidelity, divorce, and “Danger and Desperation.” There are chapters about “Children’s Deaths,” and “Children in Service.” It’s not new news that women for generations have endured the yoke of male domination, but Weaker Vessels does present the situation in a fresh and different perspective. And of course, we all love to read history, and this is a specific history, and a well-written book, not just a rehash of an ancient theme. It’s a good book to read, and a good book to have.
The book is not all doom and gloom. In “Notable Women of Plymouth,” we read about some courageous and notable women. Mary Brewster had been with the Pilgrims from the beginning. Katherine Carver was the wife of the first governor. Alice Bradford offered warm hospitality to the bureaucrats as wife of Governor William Bradford. Other biographies present more of the Colony women in a distinguished light.
The author researched original court records, diaries and journals, and first-hand accounts, and those who are acquainted with her previous publication, Diverse Gashes, about her ancestors’ settlement and tragedy in Plymouth Colony, know the research is substantial and the storytelling is compelling.
Vessels, The Women and Children of Plymouth Colony is available from Amazon at from https://www.amazon.com/Weaker-Vessels-Children-Plymouth-Colony/dp/1939995345 and from American History Press https://www.americanhistorypress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=5at: https://www.americanhistorypress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=58.