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Shakespeare Birthplace Trust collections feature in exhibition in Jamestown, USA

Rare items will help to tell the stories of the first women to arrive in the British colony over 400 years ago.

embroidered bodice
An early 17th century woman's bodice from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's world class collections is one of the four items that will be on show in Jamestown. Photo (c) the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Four rare items from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s world-class museum collection in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, are to feature in an exhibition in America that tells the story of the first women to arrive in the British colony of Jamestown in West Virginia over 400 years ago.

white linen sheet, which was among the possessions of the family of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway; an early 17th century woman’s embroidered bodice; an Anglo-German oak medicine chest made during the second half of the 16th century or early 17th century; and a 400-year-old cupping glass are being loaned to the exhibition entitled Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia.

The year-long exhibition opens on 10 November at Jamestown Settlement, a museum on the site of the original colony, and will feature more than 60 artefacts from 22 international and US institutions.

Paul Taylor, head of collections at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said, “The objects from our charity’s collections in Stratford-upon-Avon were selected for their remarkable survival and for the stories they will help the exhibition tell. They are wonderful examples of the everyday objects that 17th century women would have been very familiar with, but which rarely survive 400 years. We are very happy that we can contribute to this important exhibition.”

Katherine Egner Gruber, curator at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, which runs Jamestown Settlement, said, “This is the first time we have worked with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and we sought the best examples of the most appropriate artefacts to illustrate Tenacity. Perhaps the best example of this is the 17th century linen sheet, which will help us tell the personal stories of women like Jane Hill, whom in 1627 was punished by the General Court for fornication, and for her penance, was ordered to stand in front of her congregation wearing only a white sheet.

“We are thankful to have the support of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the important work of telling these stories.”