Spotlight on Female Ancestors #2 ~ Mary Brewster and Susanna White 2 of 4

Susanna Jackson, my maternal 10th Great Grandmother, was born in 1595 in Nottinghamshire, England. She and her father were English Separatists who fled religious persecution in England under King James I for their non-conformity to the dictates and practices of the Church of England. They came to Holland in 1608. There she married William White in 1612 in Leyden, Holland, and they had a son, Resolved. In 1620 William, Susanna, and Resolved boarded a ship that would take them back to England to join 101 other passengers embarking on a voyage to the New World aboard the Mayflower. Susanna was 25 years old and a little over 6 months pregnant when they began the trip on September 6, 1620..


Mary Brewster Statute

Mary, my paternal 11th Great Grandmother, whose maiden name has not been verified, was born in 1569 in Nottinghamshire, England. She married Elder William Brewster about 1593 in England, and she accompanied her husband and 3 young children to Leiden, Holland in 1608. Here they had at least 3 more children. William, Mary and their 2 youngest children also made the trip back to England to make the trip on the Mayflower. Mary was about 51 years old.

There were 3 pregnant women aboard the Mayflower and Susanna no doubt kept close company with matronly Mary Brewster, her family’s friend and neighbor from back in Scooby, England and in Holland. It must have been a great comfort to her. The ship arrived in Cape Cod Harbor on November 21, 1620. Because of the rough waters only the men were allowed to leave the ship, while the women and children were confined to their place on the middle deck of the Mayflower.


Peregrine White Cradle

On December 10, 1620, Susanna gave birth to a son aboard the Mayflower. They named him Peregrine, meaning a traveler or pilgrim. Peregrine White was the first Pilgrim child to be born in the New World. By the time all of the passengers made it to land, winter had blown in and made life miserable because of a lack of shelter. That first winter, death claimed 52 members of the group with the greatest loss being among the women with over three quarters of their number dying. The extremely high mortality rate among women is probably explainable by the fact the men were out in the fresh air, felling trees, building structures and drinking fresh New England water; while the women were confined to the damp, filthy and crowded quarters offered by the Mayflower, where disease would have spread much more quickly.

Susanna’s husband, William, died on February 21, 1621, along with the family’s two young man servants. Being left a widow with 2 young boys she remarried a few months later to fellow Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, whose wife had also died had first winter, on May 12, 1621. Their marriage was the first marriage at Plymouth.


By the end of the summer of 1621, only four women, Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White, would remain alive to care for the Colony’s fifty surviving men and children. These four brave women faced some incredible hardships and heartbreak as they tried to make a new life in a new land. They had to be very strong, not just physically but also in their faith to withstand those first couple of years as the caregivers to so many people. I am proud that Mary and Susanna were two of the four.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.

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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Mayflower, Plymouth Massachusetts, Spotlight on Female Ancestors, Uncategorized

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