Elizabeth “Betty” Alden Pabodie

Elizabeth “Betty” Alden Pabodie

c. 1624 – 1717

Essay by Chase Soderlund

Essay by Katherine Porter

Exhibit Text from 2020 Special Exhibition

Portrait of an unknown seventeenth-century English woman, often erroneously identified as Betty Alden. Courtesy of Carlton Brownell. There is no known portrait of Elizabeth Alden Pabodie.

Essay by Chase Soderlund

Elizabeth Pabodie was born in 1623, as Elizabeth Alden, in Little Compton, Rhode Island. Her parents were John Alden and Pricilla Alden. Elizabeth’s parents traveled to the Americas on the famous ship, The Mayflower in 1620. John Alden was a crew member on the Mayflower. Elizabeth Pabodie was allegedly the first white woman born in New England. Elizabeth Pabodie had 8 siblings, John born circa 1627, Joseph born after 22 May 1627, Sarah born 1629, Jonathan born circa 1632, Ruth born 1634, Rebecca born pre 1649, Mary, Priscilla, and David born circa 1646. Elizabeth’s family were Plymouth settlers.                                                       

Elizabeth Pabodie was married to William Pabodie on December 26th, 1644. She had 13 children and they settled in Duxborough (later Duxbury, Massachusetts), close to other Mayflower families, including the Brewsters and Standishes. William served as town clerk there, succeeding Alexander Standish, and held other jobs at various times as well, including yeoman, boatman, planter, and surveyor.

Then they settled in Little Compton, RI in the 1680’s. Elizabeth’s husband died on December 13th 1707. Then Elizabeth later died on May 31, 1717. She is now buried in the Old Commons Burial Ground Little Compton.

Written by: Chase Soderlund, Grade 5 – Wilbur & McMahon School

April 2020

A book about Elizabeth “Betty” Alden Pabodie. Courtesy of Katherine Porter.

Essay by Katherine Porter

In 1891, Jane G. Austin (not the better known English author Jane Austen) titled her sixth book Betty Alden: the first born daughter of the Pilgrims.  Her book was successful and was one of the first books to recognize Betty Alden. The preface reads, “He who would read for himself the story of this noble woman must seek it through ancient volumes and mouldering records, until at Little Compton in Rhode Island he finds upon her gravestone the last affectionate and honorable mention of Elizabeth, daughter of John and Priscilla Alden, and wife of William Pabodie.” In the old Commons graveyard there is still a memorial and her gravestone to honor her.

Elizabeth was born between 1623-1625, to the parents of John and Priscilla Alden, who came to the “New World” on the Mayflower. Elizabeth was the first of ten siblings.

Elizabeth met William Padbodie, and later they married. She changed her name to Elizabeth Alden Padbodie when she married William.

William and Elizabeth moved to Duxbury and had thirteen children. They built a house that was only about 38 feet x 10 feet. Around 1684, they moved to Little Compton, Rhode Island with two of their children. In 1690, they built a house in Little Compton. It is possibly the same house as the Wilbur house, but I have been unable to confirm that.

Elizabeth and William had thirteen children together. The names of their children from the oldest to the youngest  are: John (1645-1669), Elizabeth (1647-1677), Mary (1648-1728), Mercy (1650-1728), Martha (1651-1711), Priscilla (1652-1653), Priscilla (1653-1724), Sarah (1656-1740), Ruth (1658-1724), Rebecca (1660-1702), Hannah (1661-1723), William (1664-1744), and Lydia (1667-1748). Interestly enough, when the baby Priscilla died, the next baby girl took the same name.

William died on December 13, 1707. William did many significant things in his life, including being one of Little Compton’s founders, Little Compton’s first town clerk, and a prayer service leader.

Although her husband did many notable things, Elizabeth was the first born daughter of the pilgrims. There is even a chance that she might not be the first pilgrim girl born in New England. Detractors claim that it is unlikely that no girls were born in the three year period between the Mayflower landing and Elizabeth’s birth, given the double-digit births of families back then. Even though this may be true, Elizabeth is the one we continue to remember.

Elizabeth died on May 31, 1717. Elizabeth is estimated to have had about eighty two grandchildren and 556 great-grandchildren at the time of her death.

Written by: Katherine Porter, Grade 5 – Wilbur & McMahon School

April 2020

Exhibit Text from 2020 Special Exhibition

Elizabeth, the daughter of Mayflower passengers John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, is likely the first English girl born in New England. She came to Little Compton with her husband William Pabodie and several of their adult children around 1682, the year Sakonnet was named Little Compton. The Pabodies benefited from the improvements made by earlier English settlers and joined them in building a colonial town. Because William was Town Clerk their small home on the Great West Road served as his office and a community meeting place until the Meeting House was built on the Commons a decade later. Elizabeth would have managed the housekeeping necessitated by those early gatherings.

Elizabeth was about 60 when she arrived in Little Compton and lived into her early 90s. She was one of very few women to be honored with an obituary at that time. The writer marveled that Elizabeth’s “granddaughter was a grandmother.” “Betty Alden” became well-known during the late 19th-century Colonial Revival Period in part because of a Longfellow poem about her parent’s romance. She had 556 great-grandchildren when she died, and today, thousands claim her as an ancestor.

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Outdoor exhibit panel from the 2020 special exhibition, The Little Compton Women’s History Project.

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