By Stacy B. C. Wood, Jr.

'The Landing of the Pilgrims' by Henry A. BaconWhat is the significance of this painting? It might be titled "Ladies First!" Perhaps you can identify some of the individuals shown; that is probably Captain Myles Standish as the left wearing the helmet and holding the oar. Note there there are other women and children.

The women about to step on what would become one of the most famous boulders or rocks of all time, "Plymouth Rock," is supposed to be Mary Chilton. Chilton family tradition dating from 1744 has the 13-year old Mary as the first woman to step ashore. If it did happen, there is no official record of the event to be found in the early published accounts of New Plymouth history. It is not in Mourt's Relation, Edward Winslow's Good Newes from New England, or Governor William Bradford's history Of Plimoth Plantation.

Mary Chilton came on the "Mayflower" with her father James and her mother whose name is unknown. As you have read, her father, who was a signer of the "Mayflower Compact" died before the passengers could go ashore. If this legend of her being the first ashore is true, perhaps she was allowed to do so because her father was denied the opportunity.

Mary survived the first winter but her mother did not. Governor Bradford in his history states in the 1650 summary of the fate of the passengers that "James Chilton and his wife also died in the first infection, but their daughter Mary is still living and hath nine children; and one daughter is married and hath an child. So there increase is ten."

In 1623, along with the other "first comers," Mary was granted land on the north side of the town of Plymouth. Sometime between July 1623 and 22 May 1627 she married John Winslow who arrived in 1621 in the "Fortune" shortly after the "first Thanksgiving." He was a brother of Pilgrim Edward Winslow. In 1671 they moved to Boston. Her husband died before June 1674 and she died in 1679.