They Knew They Were Pilgrims

The 17th Century Adventures of Plimoth Plantation's Colonial Interpreters

Many Hands Make Light Work.

May 31st, 2014 by Alexandra

“Many handes make lyght warke…”

-John Heywood, 1562

Most people when they show up to work in the morning are expected to at least look somewhat presentable – a suit and tie maybe, perhaps some lipstick, and generally at the very least, showered.  But being a Pilgrim is dirty, grimy work – all those “career casual” clothes I have from previous jobs are now mostly gathering dust in the far reaches of my closet, and when I try to put on mascara these days I usually stab myself in the eye because I’ve mostly forgotten how to do it (Let’s not even talk about trying to walk in high heels).

One quickly loses one’s vanity when every work day regularly presents so many dirty hazards, whether it’s cooking, gardening, caring for animals, woodworking or any other number of unforeseen circumstances.  And while we may come home at the end of the day covered in dirt and smelling like smoke or pitch, we also get the satisfaction of knowing that we accomplished something with our own hands, a feeling that’s getting rarer and rarer in this day and age.

So over the years I’ve documented the life of a Pilgrim through a few of the sundry ways my hands have been cut, dirtied, and yes, even dyed hot pink. Sure, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it:

Gardening is dangerous work you guys! (But don’t worry, its only a flesh wound.)


Trying to clean all the grime and grease off a copper pot that had been hanging over a fire for a whole year seemed like a good idea at the time…


Clay from daub is this year’s hottest new fashion accessory!


Dirt. The classic.

hands_beets (2)

Did you know cutting up a beet makes your hand look like you used a pink marker to color your hand like a 5 year old?


Just as an FYI there is generally a lot of soot on the bottom of pots which hang over a fire (Which, ahem, you shouldn’t then accidentally smear all over your face…).


All the bread dough didn’t just end up on my hands. Promise.



Now can someone pass the soap?

Tags: , , , ,

4 Responses to “Many Hands Make Light Work.”

  1. Sam Fuller '14 aka Ray Byrne says:

    WOW! When’s your weekend?

  2. johnk says:

    Thanks, Alex,

    Another great one! Highly colorful!! Evocative!!! Revealing!!!!

    Love the quote from 1562. Love the remark about handiwork “getting rarer and rarer in this day and age.” Good matter for today’s Sabbath sermon.

    Love the vivid way your unthinkably modern photos show how the hand relates to food and shelter (prime essentials).

    Let’s sing!

    . . . the labor of thy hands when thou shalt eat
    O happy thou and good unto thee be shall it.
    Ainsworth 128

    Best for the weekend. And Happy Half-year Sabbathday (don’t mention Whitsun).


  3. Atlas Laster says:

    Yes, yes; hard manual work.

    Henry Ainsworth’s annotations (1616) to Genesis 3:19, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…” – “With much labour, which Adam and all his posterity was condemned unto; that this is a general rule, ‘if any will not work neither should he eat,’ 2 Thes. iii. 10. The ‘sweat of the face,’ though it is to be distinguished from the care of the mind, which Christ forbiddeth, Matth. vi. 25, 34. yet it doth imply all lawful labours, and industry of body and mind for the good of both, Eph. iv. 28. Matth. x. 10. 1 Cor. ix. 14. so that the giving of the heart also, to seek and search out things by wisdom, is ‘a sore occupation, which God hath given to the sons of Adam, to be occupied therein,’ and humbled thereby: Eccl. I. 13.”

    Those words of Ainsworth to us who have had the opportunity to read some of his writings are so true. Moreover, when a student at Cambridge, surely he faced what we, today, know as cramming for midterms and finals – not to mention writing a few papers all due around the same time.

    Ainsworth did not make the trip to the new world, so he never faced the truly backbreaking labor required to have a roof over his head and food to eat. In any case, his point mentioned above is well-taken.

  4. Atlas Laster says:

    In the second volume of Benjamin Brook’s 1813 book, The Lives of the Puritans, he stated that Ainsworth’s “great work, the Annotations on the Five Books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Song of Solomon, was published separately, in the year 1612, and several following years; and afterwards collected and printed in London, in one volume folio, 1627, and again in 1639. This last edition is said to be very scarce.”

    It is only fitting that most likely the largest collection on the planet of that 1639 printing, four copies, is held at Cambridge, Ainsworth’s alma mater. It is interesting that a collection of four copies of that 1639 printing is found in the Pilgrims’ new world across the Atlantic Ocean, in my personal library; it is humbling indeed to have that distinction.

Leave a Reply

© 2003-2011 Plimoth Plantation. All rights reserved.

Plimoth Plantation is a not-for-profit 501 (c)3 organization, supported by admissions, grants, members, volunteers, and generous contributors.