A lasting legacy bringing attention to the often unheard stories of the women who travelled to America on the Mayflower
Located on the water’s edge of the River Trent in Gainsborough, the Pilgrim Woman is a symbol of growth and new beginnings as she prepares to leave her home to travel to America onboard the Mayflower.
The Mayflower story is often dominated by the idea of the ‘Pilgrim Fathers’ when in fact both, men, woman and children were part of the journey. Some of these women were the wives of leading Separatists including Mary Brewster, wife of William Brewster who served as a leader instrumental in establishing the Plymouth Colony in America. Mary was also one of the women to survive the first winter in America, and may have helped cook the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
It is quite fitting that the Pilgrim Woman is situated looking over the River Trent as research tells us that of those who escaped from Gainsborough in 1608 to Amsterdam, the majority were in fact mainly women and children and accompanied by a couple of men.
On 10 May 1608, a group of Separatists decided to escape from Gainsborough in search of religious freedom. They left via the River Trent on a small barge called ‘The Francis’ which travelled to Stallingborough near Immingham, where they would meet a larger boat that would take them to Amsterdam in Holland. By the time they reached Stallingborough, there were more than 80 people on-board.
The statue is mounted on a piece of stone which has the words “Steering our Future Informed by Our Past” carved on to it. These are the words from the national Mayflower 400 partnership and reflects how it is important to look back at our history, how it is relevant today and how it will carry us into the future.
Gainsborough’s other main link to the Mayflower story is that a group of Separatists (some that escaped to Holland) were thought to have worshipped in secret in Gainsborough Old Hall – now regarded as one of the best preserved medieval manor houses in Britain – with the permission of its sympathetic owner, merchant William Hickman. The United Reformed Church in Gainsborough also stands as a memorial to John Robinson, pastor to the Mayflower Pilgrims and one of the founders leaders of the Separatists, and credited with being a founder of the Congregational churches.
The Pilgrim Woman was commissioned by West Lindsey District Council with funding from the Gainsborough Development Fund. The sculpture was designed by Nottinghamshire Sculptor, Rachel Carter and is part of her ‘Spirit of the Mayflower’ project.
The Pilgrim Woman was designed using highly advanced technology that involved hundreds of digital images being pieced together to create the final version. Rachel herself was the model for the Pilgrim Woman, wearing a full-sized Tudor dress, created by the sewing group at Gainsborough Old Hall. The sewing group have taught historical sewing techniques for many years and also make their own costumes for their own events that take place at the Old Hall.
For more information about the Pilgrim Woman, listen to Rachel’s Spirit of the Mayflower Podcast (episode 10). Go to www.rachelcarter.co.uk/podcast. For more information about her projects visit www.rachelcarter.co.uk/projects.