American Pioneer Chronicles:
Colonial Women, The Heartbeat and Backbone of our Nation
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Pioneer women have many skills, but they are all, first and foremost, resilient. The effort needed to move a family from Europe to the Colonies in 1683 took incredible faith and fortitude. Margaret Pietjes Opdengraeff was born and raised in Krefeld, in the Dutch Republic, where she met and married Isaac Opdengraeff, a Mennonite Bishop, and bore six children, four of which grew to adulthood. Intelligent and inspirational, Margaret supported Isaac as a devout Mennonite throughout his life. Isaac however, died when he was sixty-three, leaving resolute Margaret to fulfill the family’s immigration plan. Taking the lead, she directed the disposition of their home and booked passage down the Rhine to Rotterdam in a small river vessel, then a boat to England and finally the hellish 75-day voyage west. They shared on board – disease, deprivation, death – but also shared hope, gratitude, and new birth. Arriving in colonial Germantown in mid-October, where the immensity of the wilderness confronted her, Margaret’s intrepid spirit at last failed her, dying within the first month. What didn’t fail was her task of giving her children, extended family and friends opportunity that would pay off handsomely for her progeny. Margaret’s son Abraham was married to another trailblazer, Catherine Jansen, who also survived, with their two children in tow, the horrid trans-Atlantic journey. They became one of the first thirteen families to settle Germantown. Her legacy is easily summed up in the opportunity she allowed her children — Margaret’s grandchildren — becoming powerful and important society members including Justice of the Peace, Assemblyman, burgess, legislative representative, abolitionists, shopkeepers, weavers, iron workers, leaders in every aspect of life.