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Pathfounders image courtesy of Pilbrim Hall Museum, Plymouth MA

PATHFOUNDERS: Women of Plymouth


Exhibit opens Sunday, 4/21/24 1:00-4:00pm

and will continue on Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4pm through June 16.


Admission is $5

Image Courtesy of Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA

This exhibition resets the 400-year story of Plymouth Colony with a focus on the lives and legacies of path-founding women. A series of biographical mini-films presents the voices of women from two differing cultures who lived along the eastern seaboard of larger Plymouth and Cape Cod in the 17th century. Makers, nurturers, leaders, and survivors, these women made history, though their stories have often been untold. The film exhibition was created by Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA in association with the Wampanoag-owned production company SmokeSygnals of Mashpee, MA, and curated by Dr. Donna Curtin, Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, and Linda Coombs.

Who were the women who shaped early Plymouth Colony? Three short films illustrate the lives of Wampanoag women, including two historical figures, the sachem Awashonks and a neighbor of the Pilgrim colonists, the wife of Hobbomock,  whose actual name is never mentioned in early records, as well as an interview from a modern Wampanoag perspective with Tribal member Paula Peters, an independent researcher, author, and founder of SmokeSygnals.

Three additional films reflect the experiences of women of the early English colony, including a film spotlighting two girls, Priscilla Mullins (Alden) and Mary Chilton (Winslow). They were among five teenage girls who arrived on the Mayflower in1620, survivors of the dangerous journey across the Atlantic. As immigrants and colonists, they experienced upheaval and dislocation, as well as deep personal loss. Priscilla Mullins was 18, and Mary Chilton just 13 years old when they were orphaned during their first months in Plymouth. Did distressed circumstances bring these girls together? Primary accounts reveal little of their experiences or connections with each other. As orphans, Priscilla Mullins and Mary Chilton would have been assigned to live with other families. Would they have reached out to each other or helped each other? While based on 17th-century primary source accounts, the film hints at connections and relations that lie between the lines of historical text.  Despite traumatic New World beginnings, Priscilla and Mary went on to establish large, stable families of their own, each having more than nine children. Each achieved a level of economic success and maintained a comfortable living by the standards of the day.

Additional films tell the stories of Elinor Billington, wife of the Colony’s first convicted murderer, John Billington, and Susanna White Winslow, one of three pregnant women aboard the Mayflower, who gave birth to her son Peregrine while the ship was anchored off Cape Cod.

The exhibition is on loan from Pilgrim Hall Museum, which is celebrating its 200th anniversary in 2024.


2020 exibition logo.jpg
2020 exhibition at the CHO

This exhibition was organized to honor the Native Americans, the first European settlers, the founding families and the early settlements of the Outer Cape in the 1600s. It continues the Pilgrim story of migration from Plymouth to Outer Cape Cod, then called “Nawsett” (today’s Nauset), and describes the lives of the first generations of families that settled here.

Our presentation begins with the region’s Native American tribes and their initial encounters--peaceful and not--with early European explorers and then the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Next we recount the expeditions launched from Plymouth to Nauset to find more fertile land to expand and sustain the colony.

Finding that the Outer Cape offered better prospects, at least for some, the Plymouth Colony Court in 1644 gave land grants to each of seven families to settle the area that today includes parts of Orleans and Wellfleet, and all of Eastham. We explore the backgrounds of these founding families, and the imprint their first and second generations left on our history.

In our final section, the everyday lives of the founding families are recounted, including their homes, clothing, diet and customs. Some practices will seem strange to us today, while others (such as children’s games) will sound quite familiar.

Watch our YouTube Video for the story of The Land Called Nawsett

Models of Maritime

May 19 - September 29, 2019

The CHO brought together important items from its collection and other museums/private collectors on Cape Cod to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of living by the sea.  The exhibit will include ship models and other artifacts that tell its story in dramatic form as only people of Cape Cod can do. Designed by Dr. Edith Tonelli, Guest Curator, the exhibit is sure to fascinate viewers of all ages.

Attack on Orleans! The German Submarine Attack off Nauset Beach on July 21, 1918
Marking  the 100th anniversary of the German U-boat attack on the tugboat Perth Amboy off the coast of Orleans. The shelling of the tug and the barges that it was towing was the only German attack on American soil during WW I.
Outermost Inspirations
July 26- August 22, 2018
In harsh winters, Orleans is reminded how nature can change our coastline as Beston’s The Outermost House taught us 90 years ago. The CHO has been saving photographic and physical evidence of these changes, but the Addison Gallery’s artists are recording the soul and beauty of these changes.  We are excited to be working on this exhibit with Helen Addison. Our mission is to bring history and culture to Orleans and this involves finding different ways to look at the heritage of this wonderful town. Since its beginning, the Addison Gallery has had a solid record of showing how these historical landscapes are being seen by today's artists.  We are looking forward to this fresh perspective and the beginning of a great partnership.
 Afternoon Curl | pastel | Amy Sanders
Afternoon Curl | pastel | Amy Sanders
Walking the Beach | oil on canvas | Paul Schulenburg
Walking the Beach | oil on canvas | Paul Schulenburg
The CG 36500


The story of the CG36500's famed rescue of 32 people off of the oil tanker Pendleton, which broke apart in a storm in February of 1952. It was the most famous small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history and was featured in Disney's film The Finest Hours. The actual boat can be seen elsewhere.


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