One Colonial Woman’s World reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, Mehetabel began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. A previously overlooked resource, the diary contains entries on a broad range of topics as well as poems, recipes, folk and herbal medical remedies, religious meditations, financial accounts, and even some humor. An extensive collection of letters by Mehetabel and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences.
It is clear from the surviving writings that Mehetabel lived a rich and varied life, not only running a household and raising a family, but reading, writing, traveling, transacting business, and maintaining a widespread network of family, social, and commercial connections. While her experiences were circumscribed by gender norms of the day, she took a lively interest in the world around her and played an active role in her community.
Mehetabel’s long life covered an eventful period in American history, and this book explores the numerous—and sometimes surprising—ways in which her personal experiences were linked to broader social and political developments. It also provides insight into the lives of countless other colonial American women whose history remains largely untold.
Michelle’s new book, Penelope Winslow, Plymouth Colony First Lady: Re-Imagining a Life, is available through Pilgrim Hall Museum and Amazon. Penelope Pelham Winslow (1633-1703) was a member of the English gentry (her third great-grandmother was Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary) who was married to King Philip’s War-era Plymouth Colony Governor Josiah Winslow. One of the most influential women in Plymouth’s history, Penelope, like most of her female contemporaries, has been largely forgotten. Although she authored or is mentioned in few surviving documents, she left behind a trove of material evidence–ranging from personal possessions to surviving homes to archaeological artifacts–that provides great insight into her experiences. It also offers a window into the world of Plymouth Colony’s women.
Historian Edith Gelles (Stanford) has described Penelope Winslow as “a living, breathing portrait” created from “a scrupulous and insightful reading of the record that survives in seventeenth-century artifacts.” Rebecca Fraser (The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America) writes, “With exemplary scholarship, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin’s rich and fascinating book uncovers the hidden truth about Plymouth Colony’s First Lady, the complex Penelope Pelham Winslow.”
More information coming soon!