I am super excited to have my friend, Noelle Granger, on my blog today with her historical release, The Last Pilgrim. I’ve delved into her Rhe Brewster Mystery Series and have found the stories intriguing, but I have to say, I am soooo looking forward to sinking my reading teeth into Pilgrim. I’m in awe of the research Noelle has put into this book. Even more, her background—and how it melds with the content of the book—is astounding. I hope you will give her a HUGE welcome, as this is the first time she has been featured on my blog. Drum roll, please!
My thanks to Mae Clair, one of my favorite writers and very talented, for hosting a promotion for my new book, The Last Pilgrim.
This book was a labor of love (and sweat and tears) for the past four years. It began with the realization that the women of the Mayflower have been much overlooked. Their contributions – backbreaking labor under terrible circumstance – insured the survival of the colony. Colonies begun in the New England region in the 1700s did not survive without women. It was a close call, but I managed to finish the book in the quadricentennial year of the landing of the Mayflower on the New England coast.
I am biased, of course. I grew up in Plymouth and my parents volunteered me to portray various girls and young women in the Pilgrims’ Progress each week during the summer. Townspeople garbed as Pilgrims walked up Leiden Street, the oldest occupied street with the same name in the US, to the church at the base of Burial Hill, where the town’s original fort stood. They enrolled me in a summer class at the Harlow House – also called the Old Fort House because it was built with the timbers of that original fort. How wonderful to stand inside that ancient house and breath in the smells of history from the wooden beams and the fireplace! There I learned to make candles; wash, card, spin and weave wool; cook in the fireplace – many things that were daily tasks for the women.
In high school, I was chosen to be one of the first guides, now called re-enactors, at the newly built Plimoth Plantation, a recreation of the original village. This village was a few doors down from where I lived on Warren Avenue, and I used to drive there in costume in a Model T Ford phaeton (my first car). I had my picture taken many times in the Plantation parking lot, a real clash of eras!
To be a guide, I had classes on Saturday and was given a thick notebook crammed with information on the times, the houses, the furnishings, the colonists etc. to digest. Needless to say, I was tested before I was accepted for the job.
I loved it! I guess it was a foretelling of what I would do for the rest of my life – teaching – because I got great satisfaction in telling the Pilgrim story and showing the visitors the house to which I was assigned. Often I was sent to the Fort, because I knew quite a bit about the cannons, which were fired off once a day. I have lots of memories of the tourists and their reactions to the village, both good and bad.
At some point I decided to write a book about the women and I came across the name of Mary Allerton Cushman, who was four years old when she and her parents sailed on the Mayflower. This remarkable woman lived to the end of the 17th century, and as the daughter of Isaac Allerton, a colony leader, and then the wife of Thomas Cushman, who became a leader and Elder of their church, she was in the middle of colony history.
Mary lived to age 82 and bore eight children, all of whom lived (and, most remarkably, she lived) to marry others in the second generation of the original Old Comers. She saw and experienced it all – the horrible voyage across the Atlantic, the winter of dying, the starvation and deprivation of the following year until the first crops came in, the interactions with the Native Americans, the wars, an earthquake, epidemics, and a monstrous hurricane.
The Last Pilgrim was written as an homage not only to Mary but to all the women of the colony. I hope I did them proud.
The Last Pilgrim: The Life of Mary Allerton Cushman captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women, who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death. The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.
Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699. Her unusually long life and her relationships with important men – her father, Isaac Allerton and her husband, Thomas Cushman – gave her a front row seat to the history of the Plymouth Colony from its beginnings as the first permanent settlement in New England to when it became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.
Mary’s life is set against the real background of that time. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view – she was, after all, only four when she descended into the small living space below deck on the Mayflower – but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in the New England’s rocky soil. Hers is a story of survival – the daily, back-breaking work to ensure food on the table, the unsettled interactions with local native tribes, the dangers of wild animals, and the endless challenges of injury, disease and death.
What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? The Last Pilgrim will tell you.
The Last Pilgrim can be found in paperback or as an e-book on Amazon
It can also be ordered through your local bookstore from Realization Press.
Noelle Granger is a Professor Emerita at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. After forty years of research and teaching undergraduates and medical students, plus earning her EMT licence, she decided to turn her hand to writing and created the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, set in Maine.
Having grown up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the author worked as one of the first reenactors at Plimoth Plantation when it opened, which is where the idea of writing a book to honor the Pilgrim women took seed. This stayed with her over the years, resulting in The Last Pilgrim, the story of Mary Allerton Cushman, the oldest surviving passenger on the Mayflower.
The author has also written for Coastal Living and Sea Level magazines and several times for the Bella Online Literary Review. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband and a Maine coon cat who blogs, and she spends a portion of every summer in Plymouth and in Maine, researching for her books.
You can find more of her writing and musings on her website: saylingaway.wordpress.com; on her mystery author site: na-granger.com; on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/noelle.a.granger and https://www.facebook.com/nagranger/; and on Twitter @NAGrangerAuthor.
Again, thank you, MC, for offering me your blog site to promote my book!