As I’m now looking for publishers, I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing currently available books on Pilgrim history. As I’ve posted before, there are plenty of new books forthcoming, largely inspired by the 2020 celebrations. Rebecca Fraser’s The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America (available November 7) is a narrative history of the lives of two members of the Winslow family, covering their journey on the Mayflower to their participation in King Philip’s War more than fifty years later. She focuses more on the day-to-day life of Pilgrims in the seventeenth century, and I think such context
Austin’s 1889 novel, Standish of Standish, is definitely her most popular work, but it’s also an incredibly influential novel because of its impact on American culture. It’s not a coincidence that the Pilgrims began to be associated with the “first” Thanksgiving only after her book was published (but more on that in another post). Nor is it a coincidence that stories about America’s past were popular at that time; after all, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and the Pledge of Allegiance was written and promoted in 1887. In 1910, more than 30 states had laws requiring Americanization
As the 400-year celebration of the Pilgrim landing in Plymouth approaches, plenty of groups and individuals are already preparing, as this article illustrates. It looks like Dr. Turner, a historian of religion at George Mason, will be focusing his book more on the religious and historical aspects of the Pilgrim story. I’m in good company, as expected, but that also means the pressure is on. I have to admit I’m a little jealous, too; Turner has been spending the summer touring Pilgrim sites in England and in Massachusetts! Most of my research has been conducted at my desk or on my couch.
I was excited to publish “Inventing the Pilgrims in American Literature” for the May 2017 edition of the Mayflower Journal, the members-only journal for the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. But I was even more excited when the director invited me to come to Plymouth for a week to conduct research in local archives and meet historians and others who work with Pilgrim and Plymouth history. I flew to Plymouth on May 19 and spent eight busy days trying to accomplish as much as I could. I finished up my week with a lunch talk with the Mayflower Society staff
Now that I’m explaining this project to friends and colleagues, I find they’re often a little puzzled. Many think that I’m researching the actual Pilgrims and Puritans, but I’m mostly interested in what happened to their story after they were long gone. But I still get some questions, mostly about why this project is relevant in 2017. Originally, I was fascinated by all the ways that literature got the facts wrong. Then I was intrigued by the ways history borrowed from literature. Then I started to see all of those texts as very closely related, as a process of representation
Quick Facts about Standish of Standish: Date of publication: 1889 Author: Jane Goodwin Austin (NOT the English Jane Austen!) Setting: Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the early years of the settlement Plot Synopsis: Standish of Standish opens with the Mayflower anchored in the harbor and the women demanding to be taken ashore to do their laundry after months onboard. The Pilgrims eventually find and then settle in Plymouth where they deal with the difficulties of the first winter, including numerous deaths. The first summer is more successful, as is the first fall, and Pilgrims invite the Wampanoag to a feast by way of saying thank you. Another year passes as