Presentation Notes: 2008-2009

Alice Carpenter Bradford, the Second Wife of Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower Colony

Character Portrayal by Nora Kyle - May 13, 2009

Notes by David S. Martin

Nora Kyle, member of the Plimoth Plantation corps of experts portraying Pilgrims, provided an engaging presentation in the role of Alice Carpenter Bradford, the second wife of Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower Colony. Her portrayal, in complete costume and appropriate 17th century accent, was for the year 1627.

Alice Carpenter Bradford at CCGSMrs. Bradford recounted the history and hardships endured by her generation of colonists living in Plimoth. She explained in some detail the economics of the Plimoth community along with the story of the legal contracts with the original British investors in the colony. The Pilgrims were raising corn to sell back to England to repay the debt that was owed to the investors.

From an economic standpoint, it was found that the best profits were to be made not with timber nor fish, but with animal furs; the Pilgrims found that since they had an excess of corn, they could trade this corn with Indians from what is now Maine for animal furs, and thus have enough profit to pay off the debt. The debt was eventually paid off early, allowing the Pilgrims to have full ownership of their properties. Each share of land was a strip, going from the water into the forest, so that individual owners always had access to some water transportation.

Another challenge was that as more individuals began to move out to occupy their extended shares of land, people were becoming more widely scattered, resulting in concern for physical safety in terms of being able to be protected from hostile natives, as well as being able to get easily to church on the Sabbath - required of everyone, whether or not they were religious. The nearest "town" of Indians was two days' walk from Plimoth.

Alice Carpenter Bradford at CCGSDuring the question period, a question about Nora's authentic accent came up - for example, her pronouncing the letter "s" as a "z"; she explained that this dialect was characteristic of the west country in England, from where her character came. Very little intermarriage occurred in the Pilgrim community in terms of people marrying outside the group at first.

Nora Kyle at CCGSShe also explained medical care, making a distinction between "surgeons", who were adept at bleeding people and the techniques of setting broken bones, and "physicians" who had been to university and who prescribed prescriptions for illnesses after analyzing urine samples given by people who were ill. Physicians rarely saw their "patients" personally.

In terms of church membership, the Pilgrims conceived of "church" as a community of persons, and not a building; buildings specifically for worship were considered marks of Catholicism. Thus, the Pilgrims used meeting space in the lower part of the Plimoth fortress.

Nora's character of Alice Bradford was well received by all in attendance.

See the Presentation Notes Index for summaries of other presentations given at the Society's monthly meetings.