Month of May Mothers: Pocahontas' son
The inspiration for this month’s theme of mothers isn’t solely about the month of May and Mother’s Day, but I have no shame in riding on May’s petticoat hem. The inspiration came from watching the first episode of America: The Story of Us from the History Channel. I noticed the absence of women mentioned in the account. Now, we all know not everyone can get a shout-out from the stage of history; there are time limits to retelling the story as there are time limits in the history in the making itself. So, in our retelling of history, there’s a lot of editing.
What does it mean to be a mother? The myth of “stay at home” mothers has always kind of bothered me. I was a “stay at home” mom for awhile, meaning, I didn’t work for a salaried job, inside or outside of my home. I freelanced a bit, and certainly worked hard to take of my small children, but that gig didn’t last as long as I would have liked. And, not all women are “moms” to children born from their bodies. I’m going to take this month to explore all kinds of mothers – real, historical, infamous, famous, ordinary, personified, and mythic. I want to explore these roles, and see where it takes me. And I’m the editor this time.
One early American history mom is Pocahontas. What promise of her union with the Englishman John Rolfe – an “interracial” marriage which would have been considered verboten in many societies, now and previously. The promise was not realized. Though they had one son, Thomas, who went on to live a gentleman’s life, the Native and Western cultures did not solve their conflicts based on one union of husband and wife.
Pocahontas is in my top-twenty historical figures I would love to interview. What do you think she would have imagined happening to our country? What would she have wished for?
The death of Pocahontas and the subsequent death of her father led to deteriorating relations between the colonists and the natives.
Thomas, son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, stayed in England when his father returned to Virginia, first in the care of Sir Lewis Stuckley and then John’s younger brother Henry. John Rolfe died in 1622 (we don’t know under what conditions) and Thomas returned to Virginia in 1635 at twenty. He was left the plantation of his father, and also thousands of acres left him by his grandfather, Powhatan. Thomas Rolfe apparently met once in 1641 with his uncle Opechancanough, upon petition to the Virginia governor. Thomas Rolfe married a Virginia wife, Jane Poythress, and became a tobacco planter, living as an Englishman.
Pocahontas’ many well-connected descendents through Thomas include Edith Wilson, wife of President Woodrow Wilson, and Thomas Mann Randolph, jr., husband of Martha Washington Jefferson who was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson.
For information and references: