The Children of Jamestown
She had golden hair, brightened by the sun on fine days after the early-morning
fog lifted in the wake of the west wind blowing from the mountains to the sea.
She was but 14 and parentless, her mother and father having either died in
England or forsaken her to labor in the New World. She was pretty, in her way,
with fair skin, blue eyes, and small features. She pulled her long hair back
under a simple coif revealing a broad forehead and thin eyebrows. Her pink lips
matched an attractive, dainty nose.
Born in the waning years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, she was destined for
a short life, living in squalor in England, one of the millions of impoverished
who thronged the streets of cities such as London. Her story is hardly known,
fitting the lives and experiences of the poor of England and elsewhere over
the centuries. All that remains of her brief beautiful life are bones from an
ancient cellar, where her remains had been hastily deposited one day during
the winter of 1609–1610, after she died of hunger or disease during a period
of privation and want at Jamestown.1
How did she end her life so young in the small village of Jamestown on
the James River in the New World? She was likely one of the many who were
removed from the streets of London and taken to a place called bridewell, a
“hospital,” like a temporary place of incarceration, for the homeless in Lon-
don and other 17th-century English cities. Here, she and others languished,
waiting for a determination to be made of their fates. The infant colony of the
Virginia Company was struggling to survive and make a profit; workers were
needed. What better than to send the desperate poor to America to work?
Perhaps, it was reasoned, she and others could make a new life in a New
This girl—her name is unknown, perhaps Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret, or
Jane—and others joined ships that set sail from London for Jamestown dur-
ing the spring of 1609. Her ship and six others arrived in August. They came
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