The Rising Shore - Roanoke: a novel by Deborah Homsher
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The Women of the Lost Colony

We know that Elenor White Dare was pregnant throughout the voyage because the birth of her daughter, Virginia Dare, on Roanoke Island was recorded by her father, John White. History books recognize Virginia Dare as the first English child born in North America.

The records show that another woman, Margaret Harvie, the wife of Dionys Harvie, also gave birth soon after landing on Roanoke. John White reported that this infant died; he does not give the name of the baby.

A historian at the University of North Carolina, William S. Powell, researched London archives in an attempt to track down information about the women and men named on John White's company list. He reports that Elinor White was baptized on May 9, 1568 in St. Martin's Parish, Ludgate. She was therefore nineteen years old when her daughter, Virginia Dare, was born just a few weeks after the ships landed. Her husband, Ananias Dare, was a tiler and bricklayer. He may have had a child, John, from an earlier marriage or liaison, for a John Dare would lay claim to property in London following the disappearance of Ananias.

The name "Margaret Lawrence" is also written in the list of women who ventured. Prof. Powell found records of a Margaret Lawrence who was baptized in St. Thomas the Apostle Church, London, in January 1569. This would have been about a year after Elenor (Elinor) White was baptized. Thus Margaret Lawrence--if this is the right Margaret--would have been slightly younger than Elenor. An unattached woman of that age was probably a servant.

Prof. Powell wonders if the colonist, Alis Chapman, might have been the wife of the man named Chapman who was left behind on Roanoke after the English company, led by Ralph Lane, fled with Sir Francis Drake's fleet in 1586. He suggests that John Chapman, whose name is also on the list, was related to Alis.

Joyce and Arnold Archard joined the venture with a son, Thomas. John White's narrative tells us that one of the women in his company had a suckling child with her, for he describes a group of colonists whose tongues swelled up after they ate an unknown fruit on Santa Cruz (St. Croix) and adds that a nursing child who took milk from his mother suffered the same symptoms. Perhaps this baby was Thomas.

Elizabeth and Ambrose Viccas brought their son, Ambrose.

And the records tell of a Joan Warren, "of Wetherfield," who was found not guilty of stealing about five pounds sterling from a leather pouch.

It is important to remember that these women ventured to the New World more than twenty years before any women came to settle in Jamestown (which began as a company of men) and forty years before English women set foot in New England. Two of them crossed the ocean pregnant; another was nursing a child on ship. We can only imagine their daily struggles and delights, gossip, inspiration, fears, ambitions, and hopes.

See also The Women of the Lost Colony, a page from the National Park Service:


THE RISING SHORE - ROANOKE is a novel by Deborah Homsher.