Marie Daucks was a twenty-five year old widow when she signed up to go to Jamestown. Barbara Burchens was just seventeen and unmarried when she decided to travel across the ocean. They were among the 57 'maids' sent to Jamestown by the Virginia Company in 1621 in an effort to raise morale and improve the quality of life in the struggling colony.
It was not the first time the company had tried to do something about the gender imbalance in the colony. But earlier efforts had met neither success nor approval; too few women were sent, the men complained, and even by Virginia's standards they left a lot to be desired. So this time around, the company was more selective in its recruitment. The young women had to present letters of recommendation—letters which spoke to their character and domestic skills. As a result, the women who made the trip were far from the most desperate of England's poor. Among the 57 women sent in 1621 were eight with ties to the English gentry; another twelve were the daughters of artisans. Ranging in ages from 15 to 28, with an average age of twenty, these women could not be classified as destitute. But they were united by a certain disadvantage—virtually all were economically vulnerable. The group included only two widows, but there were numerous orphans and several young women that had recently lost their fathers. While not the most desperate of London's poor, the girls and women who decided to go to Jamestown faced an uncertain future in England.
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