Northwest NEWS

November 20, 2000

Front Page

Woodinville woman brings the spirit of the Pilgrims to lifeby Bronwyn Wilson

* Place: Plymouth Plantation
   Date: December, 1630
   It was a mere ten years ago that the Pilgrims arrived here in the New World. Of the 102 Pilgrims who landed in December 1620, only 50 lived through that first winter. The land looked bleak and unfriendly and one Pilgrim described it as a "hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts."
   Pilgrim Goodwife, or Goody as she prefers to be called, was one of the four women who survived. She says she is one of the "Saints" or "Separatists" who separated from the Church of England because she didn't like the way the church was organized or the way it demanded people should worship God. First she went to Holland and later made her pilgrimage to America. She has agreed to speak with the press to offer insight into her first year after arriving on America's shores from Amsterdam.
   "We lost half our party due to sickness," Goody recalled. "Crops didn't do well because the seeds we brought with us didn't do well in the climate."
   The Native Americans showed the Pilgrims how to grow crops. When it was time to harvest the crops, Goody and the other Pilgrims were grateful to the American Indians for their assistance.
   "It was our intention to throw a big party to thank them," Goody said. At the party, there was plenty to eat meat pies, eels, berries, wild and domesticated turkey and culinary cornmeal delights like Hasty Pudding ....
   Place: Woodinville
   Date: November 2000
   Maureen Carlisle of Woodinville portrays Goody, a Pilgrim lady. As a historical interpreter, Carlisle visits preschools, elementary and junior high schools and local libraries talking to students about the life the Pilgrims led. But she doesn't just talk. Carlisle acts like a Pilgrim, dresses like a Pilgrim and performs Pilgrim tasks, such as spinning wool on a spinning wheel and making a fire by striking flint.
   With a backdrop of a fireplace quilted onto white cloth and with props representing tools, toys and dishes used by Pilgrims, Carlisle transports her audience back to life in America 370 years ago.
   "The school textbooks give you the highlights, but they don't give you the spirit," she says.
   In between her volunteer work at the Burke Museum, Carlisle is in classrooms and libraries giving children a hands-on glimpse of American history.
   "I try to present the food, clothing and shelter of the period. So, when the children do get history, it makes more sense," she says.
   Her Pilgrim program began eight years ago at Wellington Elementary when her own children were students there.
   "I get so much from the children," Carlisle says. "Sometimes they really get involved in it and forget I'm an interpreter."
   Appearing in full Pilgrim regalia to a wide-eyed preschool crowd, Carlisle explains her outfit, a costume patterned after some of the originals in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
   "In my day, at the first Thanksgiving, girls never wore trousers," she says lifting her long skirt to reveal three petticoats. "Of course your mothers all dress like this, don't they?" she asks in jest.
   Her audience of four-year-olds at Sunshine Preschool shake their heads "no" in a serious group response. She continues by demonstrating a laced vest called a doublet and a hard armor-like shield beneath it which she calls a stomacher.
   "If a cow kicks me, it protects me," she explains. She wraps her cape around her and says, "If you lived in my day, you girls and your mothers would dress like this to go to the first Thanksgiving."
   Carlisle points to an odd-looking wooden contraption and says, "A lady doesn't get married until she has a spinning wheel."
   She seats herself at the contraption and while spinning wool she discusses how cloth is made and how she buys colors like red and blue from ship captains.
   Her presentation moves on to the discussion of food and how the Pilgrims ate their meals. She asks two volunteers to set the table board.
   "Our houses are so small, we don't leave a table set up all the time," she explains.
   Pilgrims, she adds, ate corn and beans every day in February when fresh fruits and vegetables were unavailable. Her young students grimace at the thought. She shows them the wooden cups and dishes the Pilgrims ate from. She holds up the tools they used for building and hunting.
   She shows the hornbook, which was really not a book at all. It was a page of writing, usually with the alphabet on one side, fastened to a wood frame. Children wore it around their necks when they went to school.
   As an art/history major, Carlisle has had a longtime interest in history. She says she acquired "odd skills" over the years and learned spinning and woodcraft. Soon her interest and skills jelled into a presentation of colonial life. In preparation for her program, she has studied the colonial period in depth.
   "I keep reading until I get a good picture of the period," Carlisle notes.
   She also collects artifacts depicting the period, such as buckskins, a beaver pelt, marbles and cloth dolls. She is always looking for things she can use in her program at garage sales and in sporting goods stores. And she made many of her props.
   "I made the table, chair and spoons," she points out.
   And what did four-year-old Emily like most about the Pilgrim lady who visited her preschool? "The spinning wheel. She makes string."
   Carlisle and her spinning wheel bring history to life. Her program is available to school groups, scouts, senior groups and adult organizations. In addition, she offers a Revolutionary War program.
   For further information, call Maureen Carlisle at (425) 483-2135.