VII. Women as Wives
The Virginia Company of London began recruiting women specifically as marriage prospects for Jamestown settlers in 1619. Corporate managers believed that “the Plantation can never flourish till families be planted and the respect of wives and children fix the people in the soyle.” (9) The first group of prospective brides, who arrived later in 1619, were described as “one widow and eleven maids for wives of the people of Virginia.” (10)
To be sponsored by the company, an interested woman had to submit a recommendation. The Virginia Company wanted to insure that only “young, handsome and honestly educated maydes” would emigrate. (11) A girl’s employer or other respected person wrote the recommendation with the goal of convincing the company of her virtue and trustworthiness. One recommendation letter, for instance, was written by a churchwarden and described the woman as “an honest sorte & is a woman of an honest lyfe & conversation . . . & so is & ever hathe been esteemed.”(12) The letter was intended to assure the Virginia Company that the woman they were sponsoring would make a respectable wife to the Jamestown settler she chose to marry.