Courtesy of The Telegraph

1169: Hessy Levinsons Taft

Jewish Woman Whose Baby Portrait was Used by the Nazis in Propaganda Work

Born: 17 May 1934, Berlin, Germany

Hessy’s parents were from Latvia but had moved to Germany a few years before Hessy was born. Her parents had dreams of being opera singers, but unfortunately once it was discovered that the couple were Jewish, they were shunned from the music industry.

In 1935, Hessy was an adorable little baby and her family decided to have her photo taken by a professional photographer. A few months later, the family housekeeper noticed Hessy’s picture on the cover of the popular German magazine “Sonne ins Haus.” Evidently, Hessy’s photo had been chosen out of a hundred baby pictures from all across Germany, that had been captured by professional photographers.

The best part though? The contest had been created by Joseph Goebbel’s Propaganda Wing of the Nazi government. The premise of the contest was to show the “ideal” Aryan German baby. That’s right—an adorable little Jewish girl was now being broadcast across Germany, and eventually as far away as Lithuania, as the perfect Aryan baby. The photographer who took her picture had known Hessy was Jewish. He submitted the photo anyway because he wanted to allow himself the pleasure of the joke.

Oh sweet sweet irony, how we love you so.

While it was great of the photographic to pull such a great joke on the Nazis, he unfortunately also left Hessy in danger. Her face was the most famous baby picture, arguably in all of Germany, and so her parents could no longer take her out of the apartment and out into public. If she had been recognized, and her Jewish ancestry came out, she would have been killed.

Hessy’s family moved to France in 1938, and in 1941 escaped France through various spots in Europe, eventually making their way to Cuba. Finally in 1949, the family settled for good in the United States, despite the fact they were committed Zionists.

Hessy married in 1959 and has two children and four grandchildren. She studied chemistry at Barnard College and is a part time Chemistry teacher at St. Johns University. While Hessy’s immediate family survived the war, unfortunately large parts of her extended family in Latvia were murdered during the Shoah.

Hessy donated her copy of the magazine “Sonne ins Haus” with her photo to Yad Vashem’s collection entitled “Gathering the Fragments” which has gathered over 120,000 items from the Nazi period, to showcase all aspects of Jewish life and how people survived that time.

Sources:

https://www.yadvashem.org/blog/jewish-girl-was-poster-baby-in-nazi-propaganda.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/07/the-perfect-aryan-child-the-nazis-used-in-propaganda-was-actually-jewish/

https://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i36/Hessy-Taft.html

Courtesy of Coastal Courier

1168: First Lieutenant Rachel Washburn

Gave up Being a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader to Join the United States Army

Born: c. 1988, Unknown (Probably somewhere in the United States)

As a child, Rachel was an army brat, meaning her father served in the armed forces. Rachel herself moved at least twelve times in her formative years, all across the country.

Rachel served two tours in Afghanistan as a member of the United States Army. She served from 2010 to 2016 and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant.

Rachel previously worked as an NFL cheerleader for the Philadelphia Eagles from 2007 to 2010. She attended Drexel University through an ROTC scholarship in order to earn a bachelor’s degree in history.

She went to Iraq on a USO Tour while in college as a part of the Eagles Cheerleading Team. While there, Rachel realized her true passion lay not in cheerleading, but rather serving her country in the armed forces.

Rachel was a part of a special squad to relate to local Afghan women in a way male troops could not, called the Cultural Support Team. While serving in Afghanistan, Rachel helped deliver a baby in the middle of a snowstorm with help from Army Medical via a radio.

She later also trained in intelligence and paratrooper training and left the army in 2016. During her time in the service, Rachel received the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Combat, Airborne and Air Assault Badges (according to the Philadelphia Eagles website). Rachel then began working for Academy Securities as of 2017.

According to her Military Wiki article, in 2019, Rachel married a fellow soldier. Very little other information is readily available for her online, and most articles are from 2013 when she first joined the army. Rachel’s Instagram account also pulls up as a result on Google, but she has not updated or posted on the account in a very long time.

Sources:

https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Rachel_Washburn

https://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/news/rachel-washburn-an-american-hero-13217037

Courtesy of Wikipedia

1167: Nellie Tayloe Ross

The First Female Governor to be Inaugurated in the United States

Born: 29 November 1876, St. Joseph, Missouri, United States of America

Died: 19 December 1977, Washington DC, United States of America

Nellie was the fourteenth governor of Wyoming (and obviously the first woman to serve in such a capacity). She was also the first female Director of the United States Mint for twenty years, from 1933 to 1953, and served as Vice President of the Democratic National Convention.

Nellie was educated in private and public schools in her formative years. She originally lived with her family on a farm in Missouri, but when hard times hit the family moved to Kansas, where her father owned a grocery store. When Nellie was thirteen, her mother died.

After graduation, Nellie worked as a kindergarten teacher for the Omaha public school district. Her various life experiences growing up with her father and then as a teacher were preparing her for a life in government and politics, she just didn’t know it yet.

In 1902, Nellie married a young lawyer named William Ross, who also had political ambitions of his own as a populist democrat. The couple would have four sons, though one died when he was only ten months old.

Nellie began her political career as First Lady of Wyoming when her husband was governor. She also acted as an advisor to him but was constantly stressed over money. The governor’s salary was $6,000 a year, and yet Nellie’s husband kept borrowing money in order to keep up appearances and live a far more lavish lifestyle than they could afford.

When Nellie’s husband died partway through his term as governor, Nellie was left with a choice: either run in the race as the Democrat candidate to finish her husband’s term, or step aside and try to find some other way to support her sons and pay off her husband’s debt. Forty-five minutes before the deadline, Nellie finally accepted the Democrat nomination to run for governor.

Nellie easily won the election, with 8,000 more votes in her favor than her Republican opponent (and only 79,000 votes were cast in total!). Nellie had officially become the first female governor, not just in Wyoming, but in the entire United States (although it should be noted that Miriam “Ma” Ferguson was inaugurated as governor of Texas only fifteen or sixteen days later [sources differ on the number of days]).

According to Wyoming History (article linked below), “It was a tough time to take office. Drought, farm and ranch failures and especially bank failures were spreading hardship across the state. Many people lost their property and their life savings. The oil boom was leveling off. Deadly mine explosions in western Wyoming at Kemmerer in 1923 killed 100 miners, and reminded the state that coal mining remained as dangerous as ever.”

Unfortunately, Nellie was a Democrat trying to keep her head up in a sea of Republicans, and so she did not manage to get as much accomplished in her term as she had hoped. Of the eleven reforms Nellie had wanted to get passed through the state legislature, only five succeeded. Despite these setbacks, Nellie was famous across the country. She rode in President Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural parade, as well as giving a speech before the Women’s National Democratic Club.

Nellie continued to travel, to Chicago, Maine, and more. She gave speeches and discussed various issues, including water rights for western states. Newspaper accounts praised her successes, as well as showing their confusion and surprise that a woman politician was doing so well at her job.

In 1926, Nellie ran for re-election. Newspapers were vicious in their coverage of her. To some, she had not done enough to lower taxes or do anything worthwhile to help the people of Wyoming. To others, Nellie had betrayed her gender by not hiring any women to fill positions previously held by men in the government. It was a lose-lose situation, and Nellie could not make anyone happy (other than her close circle of supporters). Nellie, never one to just lie down and quit, drove all over the state in a jam-packed schedule, campaigning and giving as many speeches as she could.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and Nellie lost. Republicans took all five of the highest seats in the Wyoming state government. Nellie’s race was the closest of the bunch—she lost by just over 1,000 of the 70,000 votes cast.

After losing the election, Nellie continued to travel across the United States, campaigning for various other Democrats. It was also during this time that she became director of the US Mint and worked for the Democratic National Convention.

When Nellie retired in 1953, she was finally rich thanks to various real estate investments, and had plenty of time to travel and play with her grandchildren. Nellie lived to be one hundred and one years old. She was born during the Presidency of Ulysses S Grant and died during the Jimmy Carter administration. The country changed in a multitude of ways during her lifetime, and Nellie made her mark on history to say the least.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Located In My Personal Library:

Roses of the West by Anna Seagraves

No Place for a Woman: The Struggle for Suffrage in the Wild West by Chris Enss

America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins

A Fun Update...(June 2021):

In late June of 2021, my mother and I took a road trip around some of the closer states to where we live. Along that journey, we were able to stop at the Lakeview Cemetery in Cheyenne, WY, where Nellie and her husband are laid to rest for all eternity, and I was able to snap this photo while we were there.

nellie ross grave
Courtesy of the Rose Tree Museum

1166: Ethel Robertson Macia

The First Lady of Tombstone, Arizona

Born: 16 August 1881, Tombstone, Arizona Territory, USA (Present-day Tombstone, Arizona, United States of America)

Died: 6 August 1964, Tombstone, Arizona, United States of America

Ethel was the oldest of five children. Sadly, her mother died when Ethel was fourteen, soon after giving birth to Ethel’s youngest sibling Olive. Four years later, Ethel’s father died, leaving Ethel in charge of her younger siblings. She had attended one year of college at the University of Arizona but had to drop out after her father’s murder.

Sadly, Ethel and all of her siblings were technically underage, and so they became wards of the state. Ethel and her sister were put to work to help support the family in any way they could. Because of their neat and legible handwriting, Ethel and sister Edith became the first women employed at the Cochise County Courthouse, in Cochise County, Arizona.

A few years later, when Ethel was twenty-one, she was officially made the head of household over her younger brothers and sisters. The following year, Ethel married a man who worked for one of Tombstone’s mining companies. The couple would have three children together.

Ethel and her husband purchased the Arcade Hotel in Tombstone, which quickly became one of the most sought-after attractions in the city. A white rose bush (specifically of the Lady Banksia variety) had been planted at the hotel in 1885, and by 1936 Ripley’s Believe it Or Not claimed the bush was the world’s largest rose tree. Ethel renamed the hotel the Rose Tree Inn to celebrate the beautiful blooms she had surrounding the building. The rose tree is still growing as of 2022.

Ethel was very active in the community and was dubbed the First Lady of Tombstone thanks to her work with various organizations and charities. She was also an avid historian of the Tombstone area and was dubbed the Queen of Helldorado in 1953 after helping create the annual Helldorado festival in 1929.

In 2021, the Lady Banksia Daughters of the American Revolution chapter was organized in Tombstone and was named for the rose bush planted at Ethel’s hotel.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Sources:

https://tombstonerosetree.com/robertson-macia-family/

https://tucson.com/news/retrotucson/western-women-ethel-robertson-macia-brought-fame-to-tombstones-rose-tree/article_ef7ba7c5-c2f9-5120-b674-2c4025f4e5fe.html

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/32276006/ethel-maud-macia

Courtesy of Kelly Barnhill (WordPress Site)

1165: Urraca of Zamora

Infanta of Zamora

Born: c.1033, Present-day León, Spain

Died: c.1101, Present-day León, Spain

Urraca was one of five siblings who split their father (Ferdinand the Great)’s empire after his death. Urraca was bequeathed the city of Zamora and ruled with palatine authority over the walled city.

Urraca’s eldest brother tried to take over their father’s entire empire, but Urraca stood up to him and allegedly killed him before going back to her castle and ruling peacefully for the rest of her life; possibly retiring to a convent near the end.

And that’s about all that is known of Urraca, which isn’t surprising given that she lived right around a thousand years ago.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Sources:

https://kellybarnhill.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/butt-kicking-princesses-in-history-urraca-of-zamora/

https://honorsblog.uark.edu/women-in-charge-a-medieval-murder-mystery-namedropping-11th-century-style/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urraca_of_Zamora

https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/stable/1358232#metadata_info_tab_contents

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/102723103/urraca-of_zamora

Courtesy of Wikipedia

1164: Elizabeth Tabor

One of The Most Dramatic Rags to Riches Then Back to Rags Story

Born: 1854 (Exact date is in dispute), Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States of America

Died: 5 March 1935, Leadville, Colorado, United States of America

Also Known As: Baby Doe Tabor or The Silver Queen of Colorado

Elizabeth was born fifth of fourteen children into sort-of middle class in an Irish-Catholic family. Her father owned a clothing store that catered specifically to the local lumber workers, however, several fires burned down his store in quick succession and depleted what wealth the family had. Elizabeth’s mother refused to let her do hard labor in order to preserve her beauty and hopefully marry a wealthy husband.

Her first husband was named William Doe, hence her nickname, Baby Doe. Together they moved to Colorado in order to oversee the Doe Family’s mining investments. Despite the rough and tumble nature of the Old West, Baby Doe thrived in her new environment. Elizabeth’s marriage to William lasted only three years, and she filed for divorce in 1880.

She next married silver mining baron Horace Tabor, with whom she would have three children. Technically when the pair wed in 1882, Elizabeth’s divorce had yet to be publicly recorded, and Horace’s divorce from his first wife Augusta was still in the process of being finalized. This meant Elizabeth and Horace were technically bigamists, but they loved each other dearly. Unfortunately, the fact that Horace was one of the wealthiest men in the country also meant the scandal of his divorce and remarriage to a woman half his age (Elizabeth was twenty-five and he forty-nine when they met) would damage both of their reputations for the rest of their lives. Sadly, Elizabeth and Horace’s son would die soon after birth, but their two daughters survived to adulthood (named Elizabeth Bonduel Lily Tabor and Rose Mary Echo Silver Dollar Tabor respectively).

The next few years were wealthy and prosperous for the Tabor family. Elizabeth worked with the Colorado Women’s Suffrage movement while Horace oversaw the mines.

The Tabors lost their money thanks to the repeal of Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which led to the Panic of 1893. The family watched all of their vast fortune disappear in a puff of smoke, but Elizabeth refused to give up. She spent the next few years overseeing the family’s business dealings in Denver while Horace worked as a muckraker in one of the mines before becoming the postmaster in Denver in 1898.

Horace died destitute not long after, in 1899, leaving Elizabeth alone to raise their daughters.

Elizabeth spent the last thirty years of her life living in a shack besides the Matchless Mine (which used to be owned by her husband). Debates rage as to whether or not she believed the mine would be prosperous again or not. Elizabeth most likely worked odd jobs here and there and sold artifacts from her past life in order to earn enough money to keep the family going.

Elizabeth’s youngest daughter (Silver Dollar) was found scalded to death in Chicago, either the victim of suicide, a bizarre accident, or murder—depending on which account you believe. Her oldest daughter (Lily) refused to be known as Baby Doe’s daughter and moved to Wisconsin to get away from the drama and scandal her parents had created. Neither girl had children, and so Elizabeth and Horace’s family line died with the girls.

Elizabeth was eventually found frozen to death in her cabin. She had spent the last years of her life living off scraps of bread, writing extensively in her journals the dreams, visions, and memories she had trapped in her head. Some of those writings have survived until today.

Elizabeth was posthumously inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Located In My Personal Library:

Augusta Tabor: Her Side of the Scandal by Caroline Bancroft

Haunted West: Legendary Tales From the Frontier (Magazine Published by Centennial Today, Fall 2020)

No Place for a Woman: The Struggle for Suffrage in the Wild West by Chris Enss

Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History's Most Notorious Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon

Silver Queen: The Fabulous Story of Baby Doe Tabor by Caroline Bancroft

A Fun Update...(June 2021):

In late June of 2021, my mother and I took a road trip around some of the closer states to where we live. Along that journey, we were able to stop at the Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, where Elizabeth and her husband Horace are laid to rest for all eternity, and I was able to snap this photo while we were there.

Elizabeth Tabor Grave
Courtesy of All That's Interesting

“It’s got to be blue and it’s got to be new! I never bought anything used—except husbands!”

1163: Bessie Stringfield

First African American Woman to Motorcycle Drive Across the United States Solo (in 1930)

Born: c.1911, Kingston, Jamaica*

Died: 16 February 1993, Opa-locka, Florida, United States of America

Bessie was dubbed the “Motorcycle Queen of Miami.”

Bessie was orphaned at the age of five soon after her family moved to the United States. Her parents died of smallpox, but luckily soon after Bessie was adopted by a Catholic family (although it should be noted in some accounts that Bessie’s father didn’t die—instead he just abandoned his family). Bessie also had at least two sisters but probably had more siblings, full and half, that have not been identified in any of the sources.

Bessie was given her first motorcycle at the age of sixteen (a 1928 Indian Scout--though she would soon switch to Harley Davidson) and spent the next several years earning money by performing tricks at various carnivals. Because she was of African descent, Bessie was often denied sleeping accommodations in hotels or hostels, and often had to sleep on her bike at gas stations.

She was a Motorcycle Dispatch Rider for the United States Army in World War II, though she technically worked as a civilian. Bessie was the only woman in her unit and encountered even more racial prejudice while on the road. One time, a man driving a pickup truck went so far as to drive her off the road, knocking her to the ground.

During the 1930s and 1940s, she made eight solo long-distance rides across the United States. She traversed all of the lower forty-eight states on her bike throughout the years.

After the war, Bessie earned her LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) certificate and founded a motorcycle club. One time, Bessie won a flat track race and was then denied the prize money after she removed her helmet and the race organizers realized she was a woman.

Bessie was posthumously inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002. She passed away from complications of an enlarged heart. According to Blackpast, she had been married and divorced six times throughout her life and suffered the loss of three children with her first husband. She owned twenty-seven motorcycles throughout her life (per Rejected Princesses).

*Some sources state her birthplace as North Carolina, however an official biography written on Bessie by a woman who knew her before she died states Bessie was born in Kingston, Jamaica, so that is the birthplace I have chosen to list here. However, it should be noted that The New York Times states her birthplace was North Carolina, and that Bessie lied and said she was born in Jamaica in order to make her life story a little more outrageous.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Rejected Princess

Sources:

https://nationalmcmuseum.org/featured-articles/bessie-stringfield-southern-distance-rider/

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/bessie-stringfield-1911-1993/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/obituaries/overlooked-bessie-stringfield.html

https://www.rejectedprincesses.com/princesses/bessie-stringfield

https://bessiestringfieldbook.com/

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/165444982/bessie-b-stringfield

Courtesy of Wikipedia

1162: Frances Culpeper Stephens Berkeley Ludwell

Wife of Three Colonial Governors

Born: 1634, Kent, England (Present-day Kent, United Kingdom)

Died: c.1695, Jamestown, The Colony of Virginia (Present-day Jamestown, Virginia, United States of America)

Also Known As: Lady Frances Berkeley

Frances was one of the leaders of the Green Springs Virginia Political Faction, which effectively controlled all but the governor's office of the Virginia Colony for two years.

Frances arrived in the New World with her family around 1650. She was the youngest of five children. Her first husband was Captain Samuel Stephens, the governor of the Albemarle settlements in what is today, North Carolina (although it should be noted he only became governor fourteen years after he and Frances married).

After Frances’s first husband died, she inherited his wealthy estate, and because they had no children the entire inheritance went to her and her alone. Her next husband was the governor of Virginia, William Berkeley. Frances and her second husband lived together on his own large estate, Green Spring. They married during his second term as governor. Frances became stepmother to William’s two children from his own first marriage.

She supported her husband during Bacon’s Rebellion and argued his case before Charles II, King of England at the time. Bacon’s Rebellion was a particularly trying time for Frances because her husband and her relative, Nathaniel Bacon, were on opposing sides of the debate. Sadly, France’s pleading for her husband before the king ended in failure, and she returned to the colonies with her husband’s replacement.

In the 1680’s, Frances married for a third time after her second husband’s death. This new husband, Philip Ludwell, was the treasury of the Virginia Colony and also served as deputy governor of the Carolinas. It was around this time that Frances reached the height of her political power, but this waned within a few years. At the height of her power, Frances, Philip, and several other men who made up the Green Spring Faction were the most powerful political group in Virginia, and they were often at odds with the governor.

Frances petitioned the House of Burgesses on her third husband’s behalf, usually while he was working out various legal issues her second husband had left behind.

William Byrd, one of the most prominent figures in Virginia at the time, spoke of Frances’s competence and entrusted documents with her. Frances was known for her sharp wit and intelligence and was one of the most influential figures in Virginia society at the time.

Debate continues to this day as to whether or not Frances had any children. No children have ever been definitively identified in the surviving documents from the time, however certain written accounts from the time of Frances’s life indicate that she may have been pregnant several times. It is possible that Frances was pregnant, but that she either lost the children through miscarriage or still birth, or that the babies died so early on they were never named or written into the family papers.

Whatever the case of her potential children, Frances led a full and interesting life. She was married to three different colonial governors and was a woman involved in politics in an era when so few were. Frances more than made her mark on history to say the least.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Sources:

https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/berkeley-frances-culpeper-stephens-1634-ca-1695/

https://edu.lva.virginia.gov/changemakers/items/show/197

https://colonialvirginiaportraits.org/portrait/called-lady-frances-culpeper-stephens-berkeley-1634-ca-1695-woman-of-the-ludwell-family/

https://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2007/12/lady-frances-culpeper-berkeley.html

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7656482/frances-ludwell

1161: Mary Rowlandson

Early Colonial Eyewitness Author

Born: c.1637, Somerset, England (Present-day Somerset, United Kingdom)

Died: c.1710/1711, Massachusetts Bay Colony (Present-day Wethersfield, Connecticut, United States of America)

Also Known As: Mary Talcott

Mary and her family moved to the New World when she was a small child, and Mary herself was the sixth of ten children. Until 1653, they lived in the settlement of Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, so they moved to the new frontier village of Lancaster. Three years later, Mary married for the first time, and a few years after that, her husband became the Puritan minister for Lancaster.

Details of the next twenty years of her life are few and far between. She lived and worked as a Puritan wife and mother would for her time and had at least three children.

Mary was captured by the Nipmuc Wampanoag during King Philip’s War in February 1676, along with three of her children. One of her children would die while in captivity only a week later, succumbing to the wounds she had sustained during the attack (the child, a girl named Sarah, was only six years old and according to Mary had been shot through her intestines by a musket ball—a horrific way to die no matter the age). Mary and the kids were actually among the twenty-four captives who were seized when the Wampanoag people attacked the Puritans.

Mary and her family were held for eleven harrowing weeks before being ransomed back to English society. During their time as captives, Mary and her people were taken as far north as present-day New Hampshire. They survived on little to eat, and Mary was given better treatment than the others thanks to her sewing skills. One of the native people was also kind enough to give Mary a copy of the Bible they had obtained somewhere. At one point, Mary was even introduced to “King Philip” himself—the Wampanoag Chief Metacom.

Mary’s ransom amount was £20, two coats, a half a bushel of feed corn, and some tobacco, paid by her husband (or another man named Joan Hoar—sources differ [sources also differ on whether or not it was the £20 in cash or whether or not the items in total added up to £20]). Their children were returned soon after. In 1678, Mary’s husband died.

After her release, Mary authored an account of her capture providing detail on Native American culture and conflict between the Puritans. The account was reprinted four times in 1682 and has been reprinted over thirty times over the years. The entire account can now be read, for free, online thanks to Project Gutenberg. If you would like to read it yourself, click here or at the source linked below.

Mary married for the second time in 1679, to an English colonial captain from King Philip’s War. Unfortunately, her second husband did not live long after the wedding, and Mary lived the last twenty-odd years of her life as a widow.

Badges Earned:

Find a Grave Marked

Located In My Personal Library:

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins

Sources:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-Rowlandson

https://www.masshist.org/beehiveblog/2013/02/mary-rowlandsons-dolefullest-day/

https://www.learner.org/series/american-passages-a-literary-survey/utopian-promise/mary-rowlandson-c-1636-1711/

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/851/851-h/851-h.htm

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/75623151/mary-rowlandson_talcott

1160: Jane Dickenson

One of the Few Colonial Women to be Heard Before a Court of Law

Born: Unknown, Most Likely England (Present-day England, United Kingdom)

Died: After 1624, Mostly Likely The Colony of Virginia, Present-day Virginia, United States of America

Jane made a landmark plea to be released from indentured servitude in the year 1624.

In 1620, Jane and her husband arrived in colonial Virginia, her husband under an indentured servant contract lasting seven years.

Jane was taken captive by Pamunkey Native Americans in 1622. Sadly, Jane’s husband was killed in the attack. After spending nearly a year under indigenous captivity, Jane was ransomed by a wealthy colonist under the agreement that she would become his indentured servant. Now, the word agreement here is used rather loosely. It seems that in actuality, Jane was coerced into accepting the agreement because her husband had been killed five years before the end of his contract. Jane was also told she would have to pay off the ransom amount as well.

With the choice being either staying with the native people, or returning to colonial English society, Jane agreed to becoming an indentured servant. Two years later she appeared before the court in order to plead for her freedom. According to Jane, the ill treatment she received from her new master was far worse than she had endured living with the Pamunkey people.

Now, I should note that the sources I have listed below are a little shaky and contradictory on Jane’s story. Some claim her husband was contracted and she was not, while others state they both came to the New World under contract as indentured servants.

Not only that, but the sources also fail to mention whether or not Jane actually received her freedom after making her petition, and any information about Jane after her petition has been lost to history as well.

Sources:

https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/the-humble-petition-of-jane-dickenson-widdowe-1624/

https://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-xpm-20070510-2007-05-10-0705100023-story.html

https://www.elizabethamartina.com/2021/05/27/jane-dickenson-founding-mother/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_of_Colonial_Virginia#Jane_Dickenson