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My object is this pen, which acts as a Stand-In for the writing utensils that my ancestor Isabel Babson would have used 12 generations ago, in the 17th Century. Isabel was one of only 25% of women who could read and write in England in the 1600's. She was also singular in that after being widowed, she had the courage and presence of mind to, at the age of 60, emigrate with her two sons from Somersetshire. Religious zealots, economic depression, and a resurgence of plague were making their way through England at that time, and she wanted something better for her children. The journey across the ocean would have been grueling for anyone, so I can only imagine the steely strength this woman must have had, to not only survive the trip, but to have thrived once she reached Salem, Massachusetts. Her ability to read and write would have helped her in many ways. In this new world, she became a successful Mid-Wife, as well as a landowner, in Gloucester, Mass. In Gloucester today, there is the Isabel Babson Memorial Library, which is dedicated to books on Maternal and Child health. Isabel’s ability to work through adversity and to make the best of one’s circumstances, paired with the fact that she could read and write made her a force to be reckoned with, one that is remembered, even today.

Place(s): England, Massachusetts
Year: 2015

– Naomi Warner

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