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Temperance Flowerdew ( 1567 - 1628 )  Category ( women_in_history ) [suggest a correction]
 

The very name of Temperance Flowerdew sparks the imaginations of the readers and students of Virginia history. Virtues were not an uncommon name given to children during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly among more devout Christian families in England. Flowerdew is known to history as one of the few women who ventured to the fledgling Virginia colony during its earliest years of settlement.

She was an early arrival in 1609, when she crossed the Atlantic aboard the Falcon in a convoy of ships intended for Jamestown, Virginia. She was very young, perhaps as young as fourteen, or she may have been closer to twenty. While young women often immigrated alone to Virginia during later decades of the seventeenth century, during the first years of the colony it was unusual for an unattached woman to travel across the ocean alone. There were a few women who arrived very early on as servants of other women who settled in Virginia with their husbands, but it is safe to assume that Flowerdew came to Virginia with her parents, Anthony Flowerdew of Norfolk, England, and Martha Stanley of Norfolk.

The convoy of ships aboard which the Flowerdews traveled had a difficult crossing. Indeed, one storm encountered was so severe it was likely a hurricane. During the storm, the ships were pitched and tossed and scattered. One was blown so far off course that it landed in Bermuda. This was the Sea Venture, whose strange voyage and shipwreck inspired William Shakespeare to write The Tempest. Aboard the vessel were a number of men who would later become noteworthy Virginians, including a young lieutenant named George Yeardley, whom Temperance would one day marry. Also aboard was John Rolfe, who would famously marry Pocahontas, the Indian princess.

While the survivors of the Sea Venture struggled to repair their ship on Bermuda, the Falcon managed to limp into Jamestown within a few weeks of the storm's passing. Before the Flowerdew family and other passengers arrived, they already knew they were bringing bad news to the few struggling residents of Jamestown. It so happened that most of the stock and provisions sent in the convoy were aboard the Sea Venture. Having reckoned it was lost, the Jamestown settlement despaired, thinking they would all starve to death over the coming winter. And starve many did. More than eighty percent of the settlers did not survive that winter.

However, Temperance Flowerdew was among the survivors and was present to welcome the crew and passengers of the Sea Venture when it at last reached Jamestown in the spring. What Flowerdew endured over the wretched winter is known as Jamestown's "Starving Time." During the winter, settlers resorted to eating whatever they could find, including rats and dead human bodies. One man notably killed his pregnant wife, salted and stored her for his winter's meat. When he was discovered he was hanged (and likely later consumed).

Such experiences surely toughened the young Flowerdew to her new life in Virginia.

In 1613 she married George Yeardley and the couple had three children. Yeardley did well for himself in the colony. He secured a peace with the Chickahominy Indians and for two years the colony knew relative peace with regular trading with local tribes. His term as Deputy Governor of Virginia expired in 1617 and he traveled to England, perhaps with Temperance and their children. He was knighted there in 1618 and granted a commission as Governor of Virginia. Upon his return, he organized the first legislative body of the colony, the Assembley. He also received a patent grant of one thousand acres, and named it Flowerdew Hundred, in honor of his wife.

He continued to serve as governor and assisted greatly in the growth and development of the colony until 1622, when an Indian massacre wiped out more than twenty-five percent of the entire colony's residents. Flowerdew Hundred lost six of the thirty people who lived there at the time. Once again, Temperance Flowerdew escaped disaster. In 1627, George Yeardley died. Not unlike most Virginia widows, Temperance married again, quickly, and well. She married her dead husband's successor, Governor Francis West. She lived only nine months after her marriage, and died in 1628.


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