The men and women aboard the Mayflower were very different from one another, but they managed to bond together through immense challenges to form Plymouth Colony. "1620: Beyond Thanksgiving" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with NBC 10 Boston/NECN.
Who Sailed on the Mayflower?
RICHARD PICKERING (Plimoth Plantation): My name is Richard Pickering and I'm the deputy executive director at Plimoth Plantation. I play William Brewster in the 17th century English village. I just am so grateful that you all are with me.
VICKI OMAN (Plimoth Plantation): My name is Vicki Oman and I work at Plimoth Plantation. Most recently, I have been playing Bridget Fuller, and she is the wife of the deacon named Samuel Fuller. Thank ye for visiting with me.
PICKERING: The men and women that were aboard Mayflower represented a broad spectrum of religious life in England. There were Anglicans, there were Puritans, there were Separatists. They also came from 17 different regions in England.
OMAN: The Pilgrims lived in England, and they had created a separate church. That's why we call them Separatists nowadays. It was a church separate from the state church. Before the Pilgrims left for New England, they were living in Leiden, in the Netherlands. So, while they were in the Netherlands, there was religious freedom, so they were able to worship as they wished, but culturally they were uncomfortable and they were poor. So, because they wanted their children to learn their religion and to be with English people, leaving Holland was a great idea for them. And coming here meant that they had an opportunity to own land as well as to have their own church.
MORGAN RADFORD, reporting:
In September 1620, the Mayflower sets sail from England bound for North America.
PICKERING: The Mayflower voyage was horrific. Many of the passengers had never been to sea before. They're caught in transatlantic storms. And the ship is pounded by them.
RADFORD: One passenger and one sailor die on the voyage.
OMAN: On the Mayflower, women were responsible for their own health and safety, but they were also responsible for the health and safety of their families. There are women who were very pregnant on the Mayflower. The woman who gave birth on the Mayflower was named Elizabeth Hopkins. And they decided to name that boy Oceanus because he was born in the middle of the ocean.
RADFORD: In November 1620, the Mayflower arrives in Cape Cod after two long months at sea.
PICKERING: The first winter in Plymouth can only be described as a nightmare.
OMAN: People were getting very sick. There was a point that they say that everybody was sick except for a couple of the leaders, like William Brewster, who was taking care of people just like a mom would.
PICKERING: What was it like to arrive 102 passengers and two and a half months later you're barely 50? At the worst, there were only five to seven who were well enough to take care of the sick and bury the dead.
OMAN: All with confession enter ye…
PICKERING: Something that holds the Mayflower passengers together is beyond our imagining. And so I think in that caring and in that suffering what they began to see was a humanity that surpassed religious difference, that surpassed regional difference, and they stood together. And I think in some ways the success of Plymouth Colony is based on the common suffering.
RADFORD: The strong bonds of the Mayflower passengers help Plymouth Colony thrive. And their legacy lives on 400 years later.
PICKERING: I am a descendant of six Mayflower families, including William Brewster, Thomas Rogers, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland, and Richard Warren. According to the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, today there are roughly 25 to 32 million Mayflower descendants in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Australia.
OMAN: The story of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, of those people who came together here in New England in the 1600s, it's not just a story for Mayflower descendants, it's a story for everyone. My family is from Sweden. My family isn't even from England, but I know that that story is an American story, and I'm an American.
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