by Cheryl Brewster
The story of the Mayflower and its voyage to North America in 1620 with its 100+ passengers, some of whom were puritans known as the English Separatists, is well recorded. However, this story has been unravelling in recent years, as the 400th year anniversary of their arrival in Massachusetts passes. It now includes the narrative from local Native American peoples and more details about the early settlement, particularly that of the Plymouth women or ‘Mothers’ as many Americans are now calling them.
So with delight in September 2018 the Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History & Heritage group invited author Sue Allan to the Ruddle centre where she told the incredible story of Susanna White-Winslow. Susanna was not only a woman who was one of the EnglishSeparatists that survived the famous and perilous journey to North America but she actually came from Braithwell (Sue Allan 2018)*.
Sue explained that when visiting the Plimouth Plantation history re-creation site in Massachusetts, where the Plymouth settlement is celebrated, it was clear there is little or no history of the lives of the women who made the voyage. Sue Allan’s thorough research with fellow UK and American historians has uncovered the story of Susanna through many archived documents, including letters held by her uncle in the early 1600’s, which revealed who she was.
Susanna actually left on the voyage married to William White with their son called Resolved. William White died and Susanna then married Pilgrim Edward Winslow. It is in correspondence between Susanna’s second husband Winslow and her uncle Robert Jackson in Lincolnshire that light was cast on Susanna’s father and Robert's brother, Richard Jackson, who married Susanna’s mother, Mary Pettinger of Carlton-in-Lindrick.
The Jackson brothers' father and Susanna’s grandfather was James Jackson (born 1530) who lived in Braithwell and is recorded as living there in 1585, being a constable for that year. There are further records of him there in 1600. Susanna’s father Richard is recorded in 1584 at the age of 22 as being a school teacher in Braithwell.
Susanna (born around 1594) would have been surrounded by Protestant Separatists for it was in her childhood that her parents, Richard and Mary Jackson, lived in Scrooby and met with the later to be Mayflower Pilgrim, William Brewster. In her book Sue Allan gives detailed accounts of the group of people who knew one another, including William White who Susanna later married, and being chastised by the church of the time for their beliefs moved to Boston, Linconshire and on to Holland to escape persecution. Ultimately, over a decade later they set sail for North America from Plymouth, England.
It was clear that Susanna’s father was a Separatist but unclear if he actually left England. Sue Allan conjectures that Susanna’s father was a go-between for the Separatists who lived in Holland before the journey to North America, and other Separatists left behind. Either way it's clear Susanna thought about her extended family when in the Massachusetts settlements, and Sue Allan’s book brings out a little of the person who started out in our bit of South Yorkshire.
Thinking of Susanna as a person, who grew up locally, you can't help but wonder about her experiences on that terrible sea voyage. It's clear that when the Mayflower left Plymouth in September of 1620, it was ill prepared and far too late in the season for suitable weather conditions and winds. As well as the awful cramped conditions on board, the ship was tossed in strong westerly storms causing the hull to crack and sea water to leak onto the packed passengers who were drenched, lying in soaking conditions. Serious illness and deaths followed from unsanitary conditions and poor food supplies. The journey took over two months and was then followed by worse as they were unable to get to their expected destination in the Virginia Colonies being pushed by winds to the hooked harbour of the Cape Cod peninsular. There the extreme winter cold, hostile territory and having to moor the Mayflower a mile off land, because of sand shoals, meant that half the passengers and crew died.
Incredibly Susannah was pregnant during the voyage and gave birth to her second son Peregrine, whilst moored off Cape Cod. He was the first child to be born in the colony. Its hard to imagine the horrors that she would have experienced as, soon after arriving and having a baby, her husband William, who had signed the Mayflower Compact, died in the winter of their arrival. Within months, in the Spring of 1621, Susannah married Edward Winslow, who had lost his wife, Elizabeth, not the last of the colonists to die of illness in that savage winter. They were the first to be married in the colony and in the following years had 5 children together, one of which died as a baby.
As with most of the women in the early colonies, little is know of Susanna's life. Sue Allan speculates that she probably died at the Winslow property at the nearby settlement of Marshfield. But as far as a date, it would have been after her husband Edward, who died in 1654, for she is mentioned in his Will. She was buried in the Winslow Cemetery, Green Harbour, Marshfield, Massachusetts where a commemorative memorial mentions her name alongside other early American settlers.
The extraordinary story of Susanna Jackson who married twice, had 7 children and survived the epic voyage is told in Sue Allan’s book* and her other publications. See www.mayflowermaid.com
*Sue Allan (2018). In Search of Mayflower Pilgrim – Susanna White-Winslow; Printed by DPS Partnership Ltd.