American Pioneer Chronicles:
Colonial Women: the heart, sweat, soul—the foundation of our Nation
Why would a twice-widowed 17th century Dutch mother immigrate to the New World? Hannah, widow of Brit turned Netherlander Jan William Woertman, would answer that question; her mounting losses becoming fuel for her hope, courage and fearlessness. Hope that her children would find a better life, where they could worship as they wished, where they could own land outright. A fierce desire for freedom was obviously a driving force for this intrepid widow and her children. In 1647 Hannah left Zwolle, enduring the months-long, disease-infested, horrific transatlantic crossing, to settle and raise her children in the newly developing Brueckelen in the New Netherland colony, now New York City. She would be one of the very first European women to immigrate in the colonies, nominally a Puritan but sacrificing much by never remarrying, preferring to become wealthy in ways that mattered to her, owning land and having successful, unpersecuted children. Hannah would protect her family from Native American and British attacks, frigid winters without food, primitive living conditions and few opportunities. She became active in community and church, eventually owning many lots of property in Brueckelen as well as on Long Island. Living into her seventies, she became a grandmother many times over, her progeny becoming successful in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. For progressive Hannah’s efforts, sixteen generations later, over 50,000 living Americans are descendant from this remarkable Dutch woman, given the same opportunities her children had been given.
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