The Mayflower was one of the first ships to sail and bring Christians from England to what was then the New World. British Puritans yearned to establish an unaffiliated Protestant Christian society free from the religious oppression that they had faced from the Anglican Church in England.
The Pilgrims were part of the group known as Leiden Separatists, a religious group from Southampton who wanted complete autonomy from England. Leiden Separatist were constantly harassed by Anglican agents and could not legally worship in the way that they wanted to. They first tried to get to the New World via the small brig Speedwell on July 22, 1620, and then again on August 15. However, leakage problems force the crew to return to Southampton.
Under the Captain Christopher Jones, in 1620 one hundred and two Pilgrims made a 3,000 mile voyage from England to America during autumn storms. When the Mayflower left England there were three pregnant women and a crew of 25–30. Food was usually oatmeal, peas, pork, fish, beans, cheese and other foods that could be stored for long periods of time. The Mayflower could carry 180 large barrels of food storage along with the Pilgrims' furniture and tools.
Pilgrims spent 65 straight days living in the ship's hold with no privacy and only a chamber pot for a toilet. They were not prepared for the rough waters of their long voyage. They suffered injuries from being thrown against the walls as the wind and waves tossed the ship. Besides the injuries many were seasick. At sea, Elizabeth Hopkins gave birth to a son she named Oceanus. After the Mayflower anchored in Provincetown harbor off the tip of Cape Cod, Susanna White gave birth to a son she named Peregrine(one who has made a journey). The Mayflower then sailed across the bay and anchored at Plymouth Harbor where Mary Allerton gave birth to a stillborn son. One passenger died while at sea three days before land was sighted and one crew member also died.
A replica of the Mayflower, the Mayflower II, was built as a symbol of American/British unity after World War II. It is on display and open for tours in Plymouth, MA.
- Caffry. Kate The Mayflower (1974)
- Gill, Crispin. Mayflower Remembered (1970)