I Wish I Was a Pilgrim…

…because Pilgrim kids didn’t have to take baths!

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The ‘thanksgiving’ Pilgrims sailed from England in early September of the year 1620. At that time, the culture of Europe did not associate water with being clean. The people of the Western World – all people – rich and poor, actually did not believe it was healthy to bathe their whole body!

Instead, they used a lot of perfume and changed their ‘underwear’ (white linens) often, including the bed sheets.

To make a show of being ‘clean’, ‘pure’, and ‘moral’, they would let a little white material show at the collar and cuffs of their heavy clothes.

King Louis XIV (the 14th) of France took only three baths in his whole life! No wonder his loyal subjects were bowing their heads so low as to escape the ‘royal odor’. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the Western World developed whole bath habits.

download (62)The Mayflower Didn’t Smell Like a Flower

The Pilgrims were a group of English people that came to America to find religious freedom during the reign of James I. The good ship, Mayflower, carried 102 ‘unwashed bodies’, including men, women, and 31 children; also, 30 crew members and two dogs. 

Did you know the Pilgrims were all crammed in an area that was the length of a basketball court for 66 days?

Land, Ahoy!

Finally, crossing the stormy Atlantic Ocean through many troubles, deaths, and stormy seas, they landed in Massachusetts in early November. There, they established the first European colony in the New World and named it Plymouth.

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At that time, Native Americans of the Wampanoag tribes inhabited the area of Plymouth Colony.  At first, the two peoples were friendly. Fortunately, one of the men of the tribes spoke English.  His name was Squanto. He taught the colonists how to plant, gather food, and build shelters.

Good Advice

Now, the Wampanoag tribes bathed often and openly in the pristine streams and rivers of the area. A 1965 biography of Squanto states that he ‘tried and failed’ to convince the Pilgrims that they smelled really bad, and perhaps a naked dip in the nearest body of fresh water would be good.

But, the European newcomers weren’t listening to any of that outrageous idea! (Although, they did heed, with great success, Squanto’s wise advice to plant a fish in the soil with a kernel of corn to yield an amazing harvest).

The Conclusion of the “Bathing” Matter


“Don’t forget to wash behind your ears.”

If you want to know more interesting stuff about the Mayflower, check out the website, MayflowerHistory.com. You can even read a list of the real names of all the Pilgrims on that historic journey. 

For more fun things to do with Pilgrims and the Mayflower, check out Curriculum Corner!

Categories: History

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