Tag Archives: Women’s History Month

Pocahontas: First American Celebrity

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English: Artist depiction of Pocahontas saving...

English: Artist depiction of Pocahontas saving the life of Capt. John Smith. MEDIUM: 1 print : chromolithograph, color. B size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1995, Disney’s Pocahontas was released. Across the country, a new generation of girls fell in love with the Native American Princess. Not only was she able to communicate with animals, but she was brave and made her own decisions by following her heart. Ever since Pocahontas journeyed to England in 1616, the world has been fascinated by her. Though her life has been fantasized, beginning with John Smith, Pocahontas is an important part of America’s history. Pocahontas helped Jamestown survive at a time when several settlements were killed by natives or diseases.

Pocahontas was born around 1595 to Chief Powhatan and one of his wives. Her birth name was Matoaka, though it was common to the tribe to have several names. Though she had numerous siblings, she was her father’s favorite. In December 1607, Englishman John Smith was taken captive and taken to the Werowocomoco Village. By his account, he was first welcomed by the chief and offered a feast, but then he was forced to stretch out on two large stones while the natives stood over him with clubs, ready to kill him. Suddenly, a young girl rushed to him, protecting him from the clubs. She helped Smith stand up and then Powhatan adopted him as his son. Though the execution may have been a tradition of welcoming a stranger into the tribe, Pocahontas was known for saving Smith’s life forever.

In the early 1600’s, England was trying to create settlements in America but it was having trouble due to disease, Indian attacks, and weather. Smith and Pocahontas’ relationship ensured Jamestown would survive because Pocahontas brought food and supplies to the Englishmen once a week. In October 1609, Smith was injured by a gunpowder explosion and was forced to return to England. When Pocahontas came to visit Jamestown, she was told he was dead. The next year she married Kocoum, but she was kidnapped by Captain Samuel Argall in exchange for English prisoners and items the Indians had stolen. Pocahontas was sent to a different settlement called Henrico where she was educated; she also met tobacco planter John Rolfe. After a year of captivity, Dale brought 150 armed men and Pocahontas into Powhatan territory to obtain the ransom. After a fight between the two groups, Pocahontas was sent ashore where she was reunited with her family. The fight between the two ended and would last until 1622. Pocahontas also told her father that she wished to marry Rolfe, who gave her his consent.

Pocahontas was baptized as a Christian, given the name Rebecca, and on April 5, 1614, she married Rolfe. The two had a baby and lived happily on Rolfe’s farm until 1616 when the family traveled to England. The Virginia Company was hoping to attract settlers to Virginia by convincing the Englishmen that the Indians could convert to Christianity. In England, Pocahontas became a celebrity, even meeting King James I. She also reunited with Smith, who was actually alive. After several months, Rolfe decided to return to Virginia in 1617. Sadly, Pocahontas became ill on the boat and was taken ashore in Gravesend, England. While dying, she told her husband that “all must die.” She died on March 21, 1617. Her husband and father returned to Virginia.

England knew about the New World, since the early 1500’s, but was having trouble creating a permanent profitable settlement due to the strange environment, disease, and frequent attacks from the Native Americans. Due to the friendship of Pocahontas and John Smith, the English were able establish its first permanent settlement in America. The marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe is the first interracial marriage in America. Pocahontas’ descendants, through her son Thomas, include politicians, generals, scientists, and first ladies. Though Pocahontas’ life is a mystery, John Smith paints her as a smart, brave woman who followed her heart.

Sources:

Pocahontas

Pocahontas. biography

Pocahontas

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Women’s History deserves more than a Month

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Did you know that Women History Month is March? Neither did I until recently. Since 1911, March 8 has been International Women’s Day and in March 1987, Congress expanded the whole month of March to be about women. Even though I went through the public school system from 1995-2007, I never once learned about Women History Month. Though I don’t really care for Minority Months, the the months dedicated to every gender, race, culture, sexuality outside the stereotypical “white straight Christian man” created to show how minorities also helped shaped the United States, I do worry that people are forgetting how much women have done and continue to do for the United States.

I recently was planning my trip to New York city to see Susan B. Anthony’s home. My name is Susan and I have dedicated several research papers to her throughout my life. As I read the tips on the page, I cam across one comment: “Before a visit, get a deep background to understand with some precision what Susan B. Anthony is all about. She doesn’t much matter now, but she did then.” Wait, what??? Anthony is the reason why I, and millions of other women, was able to vote last election. Because of her and millions of other women who came before me, I am able to go to college, have a job, and walk outside my house without a man escorting me.

Susan B. Anthony Day

Susan B. Anthony Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In school we are taught about the Founding Fathers, but do we learned about the women who took care of the children, the house, and the harm while the men were busy? We learn about the soldiers that defended our country during war, but what about the women who worked in the factories or disguised themselves as men to join the war? We learn about the Presidents who created laws, but what about the First Ladies that made speeches to gain support for their husbands? Do we learn how it was the Women who worked for equality for Everyone, not only for themselves but for the slaves, the Native Americans, the Immigrants, the mental illness, the disabled,  the children, and even the “white straight Christian man.”

It is hard to believe that everyone realizes how great women are when politicians spend time and money trying to control women’s choices and bodies. A minority of men even believe “rape” is imaginary since women are always asking for it, a reason why a rapist can get a slap on the wrist while a victim is forced to drop out of school. Though more women than men graduate college, men continue to make more than women at the exact same job. Everyday women prove to the world how much they do matter; last summer it was the female athletes who brought home most of the medals home to the United States and last fall it was the female voters who decided the president. Women deserve more than a month that no one knows exist, they deserve an equal part in the history books.