Ancient History

Follow Me?



I discovered Elizabeth over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as I helped Aidan with another startlingly involved school project. She was to research her first ancestor who arrived in what is now the United States. Luckily we have distant relatives who are obsessed with geneology and they like to share. It was easy to determine who was the first person off the boat. His name was Samuel Eddy. puritans

Samuel sailed into Plymouth harbor on October 29th, 1630 aboard a ship called the Handmaid. He was 22 years old and the son of the the Vicar of St. Dunstan Church in Cranbrook, just south of London. Despite his obvious Anglican upbringing, Samuel and his brother, John, joined the Puritan movement and left merry England for good. Soon he met and married Elizabeth Savery. How and when she arrived is a mystery. I calculated she is my great-times-nine grandmother, on my mother’s father’s side.

Elizabeth and Samuel had numerous children, including Zachariah, from whence little-girls-with-big-school-projects spring. Once Samuel’s inheiritance was gone, he worked as a tailor and a farmer.

As I explained these facts to Aidan it was clear Samuel and Elizabeth Eddy, the Puritans, failed to entrance her. I think she secretly wished her first ancestor in America was a cross between Betsy Ross and The Queen of Silky Bejeweled Unicorns, arriving in a shimmering pink and lavender hot air balloon. The moment I told Aidan she was done, she bolted out of the room. I continued researching, however and found myself thinking about Elizabeth, in particular.

She was summoned to appear in court, twice, for the same offense. One of the few bits of information regarding Elizabeth has been preserved: on “Oct. 7, 1651, Wee further present Elizabeth Eeddy, Sen’r of the towne of Plymouth for laboring, that is to say, for wringing and hanging out clothes on the Lord’s day, in time of publicke Exercise.” She was fined ten shillings, but this fine was remitted. (Court Orders, Vol. II, p. 73.)

Elizabeth would have known better. She was a Puritan and knew doing laundry on the Sabbath was illegal. What would compel her to wring and hang out clothes on the Lord’s day? I pictured one of those scenes when it is imperitive to do laundry STAT (or, as the Puritans used to say, STATTETH). I thought of nights when I had laundry going at 2am because children were leaking. I thought of how easy it is to get behind on chores and tasks. I have been known to forget what day it is, especially when all the kids are home on school vacations and they stay in pajamas just a little too long.

It’s impossible to give my foremother an excuse for her crime. I found myself wanting to defend her actions. But she doesn’t need my defense or my modern-styled excuses. She was Puritan, and she roared like a lamb. She would marvel at the ease in which I live my life. When my kids are sick and they empty themselves colorfully and fragrantly, I don’t have to worry if they will survive the fever.

She did.

So during this holiday season, when I get too wrapped up in the things I think I must do to make it perfect, I can call on my knowledge of Elizabeth and ask myself these questions:

Did Elizabeth worry whether the Christmas newsletter was going to be boring or too depressing?

Did Elizabeth debate whether better bargains are found online or at the mall?

Did Elizabeth count her calories and feel guilty because she ate nearly all the fudge she intended to give to the neighbors?

Did Elizabeth worry about a toddler tipping over the tree, the dog drinking the water intended for the tree, or the ornaments being perfectly arranged on the tree? Did she have tree issues?

Did Elizabeth have numerous functions to attend which required casseroles, white elephant presents, and black-tie apparel? Did she worry about dangly earrings or showing too much cleavage?

Did Elizabeth let the true meaning of the season somehow slip away between the cracks of baking, wrapping, stuffing, hanging, decking, driving, buying, hiding, wrapping, buying, baking, eating, weighing?


Then I won’t, either. And I will try harder not to do my laundry on the Sabbath.

(originally posted on December 1, 2005)

9 comments to Elizabeth

  • Hi Lifenut,

    I just came to your blog via a recommendation from another blogger. I’ve enjoyed reading back through your writing, and am still smiling at your funny prose (‘statteth’!! – I love it!)
    I also love the message of this post. It was a great reminder for me, too.

    I hope you’ve had a lovely Sunday (involving no laundry duties), and that you have a wonderful week!

    jellyhead’s last blog post..sinister

  • I did laundry today…now I have guilt!! 😛 (Sick kiddos, you know….)

    This was an incredibly great post. I was wanting to defend your Elizabeth as well. I think the Puritan’s absolutely rocked, but I’m thankful that I’m not one of them. I’d have been in quite a bit of trouble today.

    Bethany’s last blog post..Pitiful Pumpkin

  • jen

    That’s a wonderful way to put things into perspective!

    jen’s last blog post..Mmmm…toe jam!

  • I so needed this post today – I just finished my to-do list for the week and it’s rediculous. I’m not going to worry about perfect today.

    nutmeg’s last blog post..And the Mother of the Year Award goes to?

  • Shayne

    Thanks for the reminder and the interesting peek into your family background. It’s so easy to get swept up in all the craziness of the holidays and forget the reason we’re going through all this to begin with.

    I will admit that we are laundry sinners. Sunday is Laundry Day at our house. Of course, my husband does all the laundry, so I’m technically off the hook for the 10 shilling fine. I wonder if they would have imposed the same sentence on Samuel?

  • I love the way you examine, analyze, make analogies and overall relate to those in past history. You have some fascinating characters in your family genealogy.

    I wonder if Elizabeth thought about how life would be different for her 9 times great-granddaughter. Could she have imagined you, so far removed, doing laundry on the Sabbath too?

    Joanne’s last blog post..Waiting For Changes

  • edj

    Ha! That was awesome!

    edj’s last blog post..Thanksgiving, revisited

  • momzie

    Came over because of my daughter who is Under the Laundry Pile. What a great post!
    I would like to invite your grangmother mother-much-removed over for coffee on Monday after Thanksgiving and I want her to mentor me. Maybe I’ll sit and fold laundry while we talk. I think she could straighten out a few kinks in my thinking. She’s got a good start already. Thanks!

  • Love this. History gives perspective.

    Suzanne Temple’s last blog post..Precipitous

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