Plymouth Colony First Lady: Re-Imagining a Life
A thoroughly researched and richly detailed account of the life of Plymouth Colony First Lady Penelope Pelham Winslow, wife of Josiah Winslow, the first American-born Governor of Plymouth Colony. Historian Michelle Marchetti Coughlin explores the life of a colonial English woman of influence during the eventful years of Plymouth Colony's early beginnings, the eruption of war, and the end of its independence. Tracking fragmentary records and traces of Penelope Winslow's material world, Coughlin illuminates the story of a long-forgotten historical figure and offers fresh insight into the experiences of women in early New England.
One Colonial Woman's World:
The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit
Western Association of Women Historians 2014 Penny Kanner Prize
One Colonial Woman’s World reconstructs the life of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (1673–1758), the author of what may be the earliest surviving diary by an American woman. A native of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who later moved to Connecticut, Mehetabel began her diary at the age of fifteen and kept it intermittently until she was well into her seventies. A previously overlooked resource, the diary contains entries on a broad range of topics as well as poems, recipes, folk and herbal medical remedies, religious meditations, financial accounts, and even some humor. An extensive collection of letters by Mehetabel and her female relatives has also survived, shedding further light on her experiences.
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Plymouth Colony First Lady:
Re-Imagining a Life
"Michelle Marchetti Coughlin has created a living, breathing portrait of Penelope Pelham Winslow, one of early America’s valiant pioneering women. This biography recreates the life of a woman in a historical era that is renowned primarily for men’s stories. It is a commendable accomplishment."
—Edith Gelles, senior scholar, Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research; editor, Abigail Adams: Letters
"With exemplary scholarship, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin’s rich and fascinating book uncovers the hidden truth about Plymouth Colony’s First Lady, the complex Penelope Pelham Winslow."
—Rebecca Fraser, The Mayflower: The Families, the Voyage, and the Founding of America
"Michelle Marchetti Coughlin’s Penelope Winslow blends historical documents and material culture to create a fully three-dimensional world for her readers. I look forward to assigning it for my class on material culture."
— Abigail B. Chandler, Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England, 1650–1750: Steering Toward England
Praise & Reviews
One Colonial Woman's World:
The Life and Writings of
Mehetabel Chandler Coit
"This book will be a stunning development, the first deep examination of an unknown diary that affords a very rare glimpse into women’s lives in this time and place.”
—Marla R. Miller, Betsy Ross and the Making of America
"Over the years, I have heard numerous scholars enamored of some diary residing in an archive or a family attic aspire to [Laurel Thatcher] Ulrich's standard, but matching it is a rare achievement. With One Colonial Woman's World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin has done so: the thoroughness and the thoughtfulness that she brings to her study of this, the earliest extant diary of a woman living in colonial North America, are exemplary.”
—Ondine Le Blanc, New England Quarterly
“It was wonderful to read ... Michelle Marchetti Coughlin's account in the spring 2013 issue of Common-place of her successful journey to finding the diary.... It is more gratifying yet to read the results of Coughlin's research in her full explication of Coit's life and writings.”
—Karin Wulf, Legacy
Recent & Upcoming Appearances
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Monday, November 21, 2022, 2:00 p.m.
Virtual Talk with Mayflower Author Rebecca Fraser
"The Winslow Family and Plymouth Colony"
Sunday, March 19, 2023, 2:00 p.m.
Parker Lecture Series, Lowell, Mass.
"The Complex Worlds of Colonial Women"
Michelle Marchetti Coughlin is a historian and author whose research has focused on recovering information about early American women, who continue to be underrepresented in the telling of America's story. Michelle has served as a Mass Humanities Scholar-in-Residence and a historical consultant, and was guest curator for Pilgrim Hall Museum's 2019-2021 exhibit "pathFOUNDERS: Women of Plymouth." She has lectured widely, at institutions ranging from Brown University to Historic Deerfield, and has written for both academic and general audiences. As a board member of the Abigail Adams Birthplace, she has created numerous programs highlighting women's history and African-American history, some of which have aired on C-SPAN.