They Knew They Were Pilgrims

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

A Tale of Two Husbands

October 19th, 2012 by Sally

DISCLAIMER: No marital strife has been caused by the writing of this post.

One of the many joys of being a part of the Colonial Interpretation Department here at Plimoth Plantation is feeling that we are one big happy family. Quite literally. You will frequently hear talk of interpreters past, and no doubt along with the mention of their name comes “oh yes, he used to be my father” or “she played my sister a few years ago”. Women will count up their husbands and men count their wives; Master Brewster has lost count of how many children he has had over the years. At the same time, everyone has family members that exist in New Plimoth in 1627, but are not cast in New Plimoth in 2012. For instance, last year, I played Patience {Brewster} Prence, so spent a lot of time talking about my husband (Thomas Prence). He was not cast, so I could imagine him like so:

Husband for realsies

July 7th, 2007

That is, in fact, my wonderful (real life) husband on our wedding day.

I spent the first half of this season playing Sarah Eaton on the Mayflower II. She was the first wife of Francis Eaton, and mother of infamous children’s book star Samuel. Sarah suffers the same fate as many and dies some time in the first winter. Then Francis married another woman (presumably John Carver’s maidservant) who also dies (date unknown). Fast forward to 1627 and you find Francis living happily (we presume) with Christian {Penn} Eaton, Little Sam who is now seven and their daughter Rachel. Now I’m working in the village again and playing Francis Eaton his third wife, alongside our artisan-blogger extraordinaire (and fellow jazz aficionado), Rick McKee. Here we are doing some (fake) married couple things:

Francis works, while his wife looks on adoringly

My husband’s a house carpenter, don’t you know…

Romance certainly wasn't dead in 1627, Francis gives Christian a gift

Wilt thou accept this whet stone as a token of my affection?

Angry Christian chases her husband down the street with an axe...

When Housewives Attack. Episode 3.

Inevitably, the question arises “isn’t that strange, having a (real) fake husband AND a real one?” I can certainly tell you, yes, yes it is strange. It was odd when I learnt that my pilgrim husband would rather eat pottage with a whet stone than eat with his hands, just as my real husband prefers forks to fingers. It was weird when a visitor asked me about my husband and I described a fairly tall, well-built man with a great beard and realised it could have been either man. Upon arriving home (for real) the other week, it was bizarre to hear my (real) husband being (fake) upset that my pilgrim husband got to eat venison pottage and he didn’t. It was almost hilarious to see the confused look on my (real) fellow pilgrim wives faces when I told them that my husband and I were going out to dinner that night and they weren’t sure exactly who I was referring to (real husband, in case you were wondering). And then there was the time I found my (real) self actually feeling a little hurt because my (fake) husband forgot the name of our (non-existent) daughter. It’s Rachel, for the record, and she’s (fake) adorable.

Francis plays with his "invisible" daughter

I swear my daughter was just here, honest!

It helps, of course, to know that my fake husband has a (lovely) real wife, with whom he has two sons whose names he does not forget. See, here they are at the recent charcoal burn:

Francis Eaton with his wife for realsies.

Too sweet!

Having a real (fake) pilgrim husband, however, leads to some great interpretive moments, which is, after all, why we do what we do. Picture this: A hard working pilgrim man has sharp tools in one hand and a rather large log slung over his other shoulder. He stops outside the house and calls for his wife. She comes rushing out, a little concerned that something terrible has happened. He’s delighted to see her and says in a broad west country dialect “would you mind just scratching my nose for me my love?” And she, the ever diligent housewife, obliges. The same husband beams with pride when he sees his pigsneys (yes, that is a term of endearment) splitting wood with (near) perfect technique. He’s even happier to discover that she can correctly identify the type of wood she is working with. A woman greets her husband while he is working, and produces from her pocket an egg, hard-boiled, for him to lunch upon. A husband shares the last strawberry of the season with his beloved wife.


It’s the little details like this that make (fake) New Plimoth real to our visitors.

Time travelling...21st century husband and 17th century husband together

Now, which husband were we talking about again?

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14 Responses to “A Tale of Two Husbands”

  1. Alexandra says:

    Well done Sally! Looking forward to more blogs!

  2. Sally Sainsbury says:

    Cute! (for real!)

  3. Miriam Rosenblum says:

    Enjoyed reading about the family dynamics of 1627 and 2012 including their intersections. Nicely done.

  4. kim says:

    Nice job Sally!

    It is a weird phenomenon. My boss (real) was once my (fake) brother, husband, and illicit lover!

    • Sally says:

      Wow, that is quite the relationship you have there…

      thanks so much for allowing me to embarrass your (real) husband for this post too!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Where else in the world (or in time?) can you get engaged and married in the same week, but to two different people!

  6. Kelley says:

    Hi Sally-Great blog, you’re awesome. Both your husbands are lucky to have you!

  7. [...] who have been following They Knew They Were Pilgrims for a while may remember my ramblings on the (fake) polyandrous life of a pilgrim housewife. Well, the adventure continued last weekend, when my (real) husband spent a [...]

  8. [...] Mitchell for the day, but played him with aplomb.  And if you wonder what it’s like to juggle fake 17th century spouses with real 21st century spouses, you should read Sally’s blogs on the subject (They made her famous! She’s in the Wall [...]

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