P1040406The founding mothers of Portsmouth and Aquidneck Island were a brave lot.  What conditions did they face when they came to settle here?

It was primitive living.  These women came from well established England to a Boston that just beginning to take shape as a major town. That must have been sobering change.  When they left the buildings, ferries, roads and businesses of Boston to step foot on Aquidneck, they were indeed coming to nothing. Unlike Boston or even Providence, there were no docks or ships bringing in goods.

Shelter was a problem.  They had to live like the Native Americans for a while before their homes were built, crops established and businesses started.  Mary and William Dyer, for example,  followed the Native American example by bending birches into house frames, using mud for walls and weaving twigs to make thatched roof.  Others sought shelter in shallow caves and dug out mud floors until trees could be felled and homes constructed.  Sixty to seventy people lived in pits dug in the ground with floors of planks and dirt walls covered with tree bark.

They needed protection from wild animals. Howling wolves greeted the settlers and they had to rely on Native Americans (through the efforts of Roger Williams) to dig out traps in the Common Fence Point area to eliminate some of the wolves.  One of the first decisions they made was to construct a “common fence” to protect their livestock.  Mosquitoes made living around marshes a miserable existence.  Native Americans again came to the rescue by filling in marsh lands near Newport harbor.

Women became isolated.   The founding mothers were used to the company and support of other women.  This was possible when they settled in small house lots clustered around the springs.   The settlers would abandon this village like setting for homes on their larger farm lots.  This was practical for working their farms.  Women were separated by the move of some of their friends to Newport.  When the Dyers chose to uproot and settle in the Newport area, Mary Dyer was separated from Anne Hutchinson and other friends from Boston were no longer at a neighborly distance.

Here is a partial list of some of the women who were in Portsmouth/Aquidneck Island while Anne Hutchinson lives here (1638-1642).

Mary Moseley Coddington 1603-1647
Elizabeth Harris Clarke 1610-1670
Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Mary Gould Coggeshall 1604-1684)
Elizabeth Goodyear Aspinwall- 1606-1650
Ann Bradford Wilbore – 1597-1645
Margaret Odding Porter- 1596-1665
Bridget Hutchinson Sanford – 1618-1698
Katherine Hamby Hutchinson. 1615-1651
Faith Hutchinson Savage 1617-1652
Mary Barrett Dyer 1611-1660.
Mary Wilson Freeborn – 1600-1670
Sarah Odding Shearman – 1610-1681
Katherine Hutchinson Walker 1609-1654
Elizabeth Baulston – 1597-1683
Sarah Hutchinson
Elizabeth Bull
Frances Dungan Holden
Susanna Ring Clarke- 1611-1664
Margery Johnson
Mary Hall 1619-1680
Lucy Brightman
Sarah Lott Mott 1604-1647
Martha Tomson 1610
Susanna Thompson Wilcox 1607
Mary Paine Tripp
Sarah Cornell 1627-1661
Frances Latham Clarke 1609-1677
Martha Clarke 1621-1694
Elizabeth Hazar Layton (Lawton)
Joan Savage Earle – 1609-1699
Elizabeth Leads Browne
Rebecca Marbury Maxson
Martha Potter Hazard

Jane Hawkin

Herodias Long Hicks Gardner Porter
Mary Mayplet Gorton 1607-1677

Susanna Potter Anthony (1619-1674

Joan Fowle Borden – 1604-1688

Eleanor Wait