Friday, June 14, 2024

The women of Jamestown come to life with new exhibit and tours

Jamestown Settlement's new exhibit "TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia," explores new and untold stories of the women in Jamestown. (WYDaily/Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)
Jamestown Settlement’s new exhibit “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” explores new and untold stories of the women in Jamestown. (WYDaily/Courtesy Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation)

In the new age of feminism, both Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne are celebrating the often forgotten faces of history—women.

“If you look at the way our park would’ve looked 30 years ago the perspective was English, white, male and wealthy,” said Mark Summers, public historian for Historic Jamestowne. “While we don’t want to ignore those voices, only having them doesn’t complete the story.”

On Nov. 18, Historic Jamestowne held its first “Women of Jamestown” tour and on Nov. 10, Jamestown Settlement opened its newest exhibit, TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia.

The tour is led by Falicity Wheless, a student at William & Mary who did research on the way women were treated in the legal system in Jamestown, Summers said.

“(Wheless) wanted to tell the stories you don’t usually hear,” he said. “She wanted to show them not as just victims of the legal system but how the male society and the laws were reacting to women asserting themselves.”

Wheless will discuss Jamestown’s English, Powhatan and African women in the context of fighters, builders, politicians and diplomats from 1607-1699. The tour is designed to inform visitors about the complexities of gender in Jamestown.

“I think the women at Jamestown we traditionally talked about were women as wives and servants, not individuals,” he said.

At the Jamestown Settlement, the new exhibit is designed to be a story-based experience that use artifacts, images and primary sources to teach the struggles women faced in the 17th century.

“We worked hard to identify personal stories of women in early Virginia that could explore what women’s lives were like here, and how they navigated within their communities, the landscape, the law,” said  Katherine Gruber, curator for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. “But for every name that we know and every story we tell in the exhibit, there are so many more that are lost to history.”

Jamestown Settlement, administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, will have a series of lectures and events through January 2020 as part of the settlement’s commemoration to celebrate the 400th anniversary of key historical events in Virginia in 1619, including the recruitment of English women to Jamestown.

“Visitors will learn about new mothers, about orphaned daughters, about women who took a chance and decided to journey to Virginia–and about women who had no choice in the matter at all,” Gruber said.

The next “Women of Jamestown” tour at Historic Jamestowne will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The tour is included in admission.

The TENACITY exhibit is included with Jamestown Settlement admission of $17.00 for adults, $8 for ages 6 through 12 through December and $17.50 for adults and $8.25 for visitors ages 6 through 12 starting in 2019.

Both of these organizations hope to connect visitors to history in new ways by introducing previously untold or lesser known perspectives of Jamestown.

“We want people to leave and say ‘I didn’t just learn about 400 years ago, I learned something about today,” Summers said.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

Related Articles