7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)

 The incredible tale of a young girl captured in Wells, Maine, and taken to Canada in 1703, never to return, will be presented by author Dr. Ann Little at our monthly lecture at the Berwick Academy Arts Center. “The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright: Communities in the Northeast Borderlands” is open to the public. Admission is free with donations are gratefully accepted.  

Born and raised to age 7, Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780) was captured by the Wabanaki and taught to live as a native girl. Enrolled in a convent school in Quebec City at age 12, she eventually became Mother Superior of the Ursuline order. 

Dr. Little will explore Wheelwright's story and what it reveals about three cultures that defined the colonial era. She is the author of two books focused on women in New England’s early history, including The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, recently published by Yale University Press. She is an associate professor of history at Colorado State University and received the David and Dana Dornsife Fellowship from the Huntington Library in California to pursue her research in 2014.

"Wheelwright’s story is an astonishing personal account of a life transformed by three cultures that defined the colonial era,” said Nina Maurer, consulting curator for the Old Berwick Historical Society. 

Taken in Wells during wartime by the Wabanaki and taught to pray as a Catholic and live as a Native girl, she was enrolled in the Ursuline convent school, where she would remain for the rest of her life as a choir nun, eventually becoming the first and only foreign-born Mother Superior of the order.

“Crossing borders and navigating social upheaval is the core of our 2017 lecture series, focused on cultural frontiers " said Maurer. "Esther Wheelwright embodies the imperial conquest of North America like no other eighteenth-century figure, yet she has been largely written out of the story of American history. Dr. Little explores what Wheelwright’s journey reveals about English, Wabanaki and French cultures that vied for control of a continent."

The 2017 lecture series coincides with a new Counting House Museum exhibit opening in June, entitled Forgotten Frontier: Untold Stories of the Piscataqua, about eight diverse characters who competed for control of their destiny in this region 400 years ago. OBHS lectures are generously sponsored by Kennebunk Savings.

Those curious to learn more about the raid in which Esther Wheelwright was captured can attend a History Hike on Saturday, February 25, from 10:00-11:30 a.m. at Beach Plum Farm in Ogunquit. Archaeologist Tad Baker will recount the French and Native raid of 1703 that devastated the village of Wells, and the century-long contest of faith and allegiance that defined the Piscataqua frontier. The hike is presented in partnership with Great Works Regional Land Trust and sponsored by South Berwick Pharmacy/Seacoast Compounding.

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