Daily Life at the End of August

Well, it’s my birthday and I am spending it doing what I like to do: research for The Last Pilgrim.  I don’t feel any older but do hope I can finish this book before I shuffle off…

However, there are there are nagging details I can’t pin down.

Image result for cartoon of woman tearing her hair out

For example:

Did the Pilgrims have pipes and smoke tobacco? The Virginia colony was harvesting tobacco by then.

Did Pilgrim women cut their hair upon marriage?

What were the practices for birthing? I found a book by a 17th century midwife for this one. Aside from the lack of sterile practice, things haven’t seem to change much.

Where were the bull and heifers kept? Three heifers and a bull arrived in 1623. When did the colony have its first milk? How was it apportioned? Who cared for the cows?

Were they affectionate in public – hugging for example?

Did the shake hands?

Would they have called their friends by their first names?

Luckily, I have found someone at the Pilgrim Museum in Plymouth who said she would find me people to answer these questions, but I can see a visit to Plymouth to rummage around and make contacts is in my future (not that I would object.) Nevertheless, I find myself doing research on the oddest of things: sassafras (much prized by the English), ramp (a type of wild onion they would have eaten), samp (a cornmeal mush), rival colonies to Plymouth (Wessagusset, Cape Ann and Merry Mount), a coiff (the adult woman’s head covering) versus a biggen (a child’s).

Add to this the fact I am suffering from labyrinthitis and am dizzy unless I am sitting or standing straight up, and you have the perfect formula for the rending of hair.

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Life is good…dontcha know?

Here’s a golden oldie from Leslie Gore on the subject:



20 thoughts on “Daily Life at the End of August”

  1. Happy birthday, Spring Chicken! Hopefully there’ll be several books on Plymouth before you shuffle off your mortal coil., Ramps in an omelette would have been one of my favourite NC things to eat! Because they grow only at a certain height up a mountain, I am surprised they might have had them at Plymouth?? Or am I wrong?

  2. Happy birthday – and yes, you can spend it any way you like!

    I don’t know about 17th century birthing practices, but having just read about 19th century ones in Glasgow, there wasn’t much to do for anyone, really… although any male doctors had to have a blanket/sheet across the mother’s nether parts so could only work out what was going on by feel. To me, that sounds even creepier than looking!

    Your ‘ramp’ sounds interesting: ‘ramsons’ is a old country name for wild garlic in the UK.

    Tobacco came to UK in 16th century (Raleigh brought it to QE1), it caught on quickly and was widely used both as snuff and in pipes in the 17th. Whether various religious groups thought it was sinful or a divine inspiration I don’t know. I’m sure there are artworks of ‘modest’ people with clay pipes at that time.

    Try the Oxford Dictionary website for coiff and biggen… coiff sounds like it’s derived from the French (coiffure being hairdressing, and I have a feeling the nun’s habit headdress was called a coiff at one stage). There are people there who just love the history of and connections between words.

  3. Happy birthday! I’d give the gift of a time machine if I could… but then if someone from the 2000’s showed up in 17th Century Massachusetts, they’d probably be burned as a witch.

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