By John M. Hunt, PhD
The storm of the century was brewing, about to bring more precipitation than the Blizzard of Eighty-Eight, when two intrepid women reached the Keystone State on Sunday, March 4. The full fury of the storm never came, but "Mistress (=Mrs.) Standish" and "Goodwife Billington," otherwise known as Marianne Kirby and Leslie Allen, interpreters from Plimoth Plantation, braved the elements considerably. We are happy they did.
On Monday, the start of a week of SMDPA-sponsored classroom visitations, many schools in the Philadelphia area were closed, but not Swarthmore-Rutledge. At this school Marianne and Leslie gave their first presentations of Pilgrim life and values, to the great attention, as it happened, of the local news media. They then made visits to nine schools and interacted with literally hundreds of children.
As has become the custom, the Plimoth interpreters attended the mid-week meeting of our Board of Assistants. They entertained us as Mistress Standish ("Barbara," the second wife of Pilgrim Myles) and Goodwife Billington ("Elinor," wife of Pilgrim John, one of only four women of the Mayflower to survive the first winter). In tune with contemporary manners, the Goodwife, who wished to speak first, had to seek permission from her social superior, the Mistress, to proceed her. Mistress Standish nodded assent. There was then something of a squabble, Goodwife Billington claiming that Master (=Mr.) Standish had "put her husband on the ground." But the two women united in telling us the story, which we professed hot to know, of the so-called First Encounter. As Bradford presents this in Of Plimoth Plantation, it was a point—actually a place on the shore—at which an exploration party, led by Myles Standish, encountered Indians. The occasion began with mystifying shrieks, and some of the Pilgrims, when an attack was suddenly on, had difficulty getting to their flintlocks. Our visitors described "the cries" in the night and again in the morning, "the arrows flying," a "man taking a brand of light' to those in the water (to ignite their flintlocks). Though Barbara Standish was not yet on the scene, coming later on the James, she learned the details from her husband, an unimpeachable primary source. She came to the settlement, she assured us, "for love"—"to marry the Captain."
We remained at the place of our meeting, the historic keeping room of the John Harvard Brew House in Stafford, where Governor Stacy Wood and his wife Susanne proceeded to host a dinner for Leslie and Marianne. It was a splendid party. Among those present were Deputy Governor Steven Smith, past Governor Fred Clement, Penny Clement, past Governor Connie Langerman, past Governor Barbara Kidder, Judy Smith-Kressley, James Rowland, Janet Springer, Richard Smith, Thomas Kellogg, John Hunt, David Cade, Anne Hain, Alan Moony, Phyllis Moony, Gladys Buck, and Robert Buck.
On Friday, March 9, Governor Wood, through the kind offices of Rhonda Miller, SMDPA member in Bethlehem, went to Marianne and Leslie's presentations at schools in that area. He was enormously impressed. "Once again," he noted, "we have succeeded in opening up the minds of today's youth to the horrendous experiences and sacrifices of our Plimoth Colony ancestors. In addition, this year we have added schools in two areas not included in past visits" Bethlehem in Northampton County and Turbotville in Northumberland County. We thank the amazing participating Plimoth Plantation teachers and all of those SMDPA members who have worked to make this fifth year another success.