A Guest Post For the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society by K.D. Dowdall

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I want to thank the wonderful writer and blogger K.D. Dowdall for becoming a member of the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society and for writing this post about the books she would become. Please visit her site Pen and Paper !

Underground Library Society Post

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K.D. Dowdall

As a member of Dr. Charles F. French’s Underground Library Society, I have been asked to write about what book or books I would choose to become, should the world, someday, resemble the novel, Fahrenheit 451 in which books are illegal.

Colonial America has always fascinated me. It was the beginning of a new world order, but it wasn’t about democracy, at least in the beginning—far from it. It was about religious freedom and freedom from tyranny. Yet, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, in 1620, to start a new life—with or without a religion of their choosing. And then came the Puritans, in 1630, who landed at Salem, a band of Calvinists believers. They were refugees, expelled from England, and then also expelled for the Dutch city of Amsterdam for their harsh, cruel, and unorthodox beliefs.

This brings me to my choice of a book or books I would become, based on two young women’s true life stories, which changed the narrative of Colonial America’s journey into becoming a democracy. They are: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, and Tidewater by Libbie Hawker.

Of course, there were other young women in Colonial America that helped to bring enlightenment, humanism, and the beginning of the scientific movement, like philosophy in which we see Descartes’ famous quotation: “Cogito, Ergo sum – I think, there for I am.”

Two such notable women were Anne Bradstreet and Anne Hutchinson. Anne Bradstreet published the first book written by a woman in Colonial America. Anne Hutchinson was one of the first feminists in Colonial America to advocate equality for women. Their independent thinking, in the days of Puritan tyranny in Colonial America, helped to impact America’s journey into independence, equality, and separation of church and state.

Tidewater by Libby Hawker, set in 1607, Jamestown, Virginia, is the story of Amonute, commonly known as Pocahontas—a nickname given to her by her grandfather. Twelve year old Amonute’s independent, intelligent, inquisitive, and brave nature, allowed her to walk naked to the small settlement of unbathed, filthy, and starving English men. These men, without women, had had no idea how to survive in this new land.

John Smith, with his similar nature, welcomed Amonute’s knowledge and wisdom. She alone, for good or ill, changed the course of history, bringing together, as least temporarily, a truce between two vastly different cultures. Pocahontas married a caucasian Protestant minister and was invited to mingle with Royalty in England. She is still remembered with great fondness, by the English people, and they have dozens of statutes of Pocahontas throughout England.

My second favorite, Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, is set in 1665, and brings vividly to life the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University. The real heroine of this story, however, is Bethia Mayfield. Despite growing up on a small island, surrounded by strict Puritan theology, Bethia grew up possessed of “a restless spirit and a curious mind.”

Despite her upbringing, Bethia defied the bounds of her rigid Calvinistic father’s ministry. One day, while exploring the forested island, Bethia met Caleb, the son of the Chieftain of Great Harbor, now known as Martha’s Vineyard. They became secret friends. Bethia was impressed with the young Wampanoag Indian’s innate intellect, and she was further impressed by the freedom to speak their minds, given to the males and females in Caleb’s Native American Indian society.

As they grew up, Bethia fought to have Caleb become a learned young man in Puritan Colonialism. She won the fight between the old ways and the new, and Caleb went to study Greek and Latin at Harvard University. Bethia went to Cambridge at the behest of her brother, and she became the voice in a society that required women’s silence.

I would have chosen to become either one of these intuitive, brave, and independent, forward-thinking young women who helped to promote, as it says in our Constitution, “…the general welfare, and to secure the Blessings of Liberty.” 

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Thank you again to K.D. Dowdall for her wonderful post!