Happy Birthday, Virginia Dare!


 

A year ago on this date I wrote

“Virginia Dare, after whom this webzine is named, was born on this date, August 18th, in 1587, the first English child born in the New World. Her date of death is unknown, since she, and the whole Roanoke colony, went missing, presumed massacred or enslaved, by local Indians.”

To the left is a statue of Virginia Dare on display on Roanoke Island.

The beautiful Elizabethan Gardens—near Manteo, North Carolina–were constructed fifty years ago in memory of the Elizabethans who settled the Lost Colony in 1584, and who have been missing since 1587.

 The statue is a marble nude, made by Louisa Lander in 1859, based on her viewing of the story of the Lost Colony in the British Museum. (See Louisa Lander, by Kihm Wilkinson for more on this.) Virginia Dare`s semi-nudity is based on a picture of an Indian woman (left) drawn by Virginia Dare`s grandfather, John White, that the sculptress saw in the British Museum.

The Elizabethan Gardens have their own description of the history [PDF]:

“Down the steps to the east is a Carrara marble statue of Virginia Dare, which is the sculptor’s idealized version of what Virginia Dare would have looked like had she grown to womanhood.

An American sculptor Maria Louise Lander, in Rome in 1859, carved it. After an incredibly hectic existence, including two years at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean due to shipwreck off the coast of Spain, a tenure in the State Hall of History in Raleigh in the early twenties where it become a controversial work of art, a short stay with the Pulitzer prize-winning Paul Green at his estate, “The Oaks”, near Chapel Hill who decided to give it to The Gardens, the statue of Virginia Dare finally came to rest about one hundred years after its creation by Miss. Lander.

“Today Virginia Dare stands at the place of her birth in her own niche at the foot of an ancient live oak, gazing dreamily beyond the trees toward the softened surge of nearby Roanoke Sound. Instead of schoolbooks, she holds a fishnet draped about her waist. About her neck and arms she wears the Indian laces of an Indian princess. Instead of a royal greyhound, a royal heron accompanies her.

 “An Indian legend persists that Virginia did grow up among the Indians and that her spirit roams Roanoke in the form of a white doe. Whatever one elects to believe, Maria Louise Lander’s sculpture, Virginia Dare, stands serenely fixed in The Elizabethan Gardens, a figure of quiet hope, wide-browed and intelligent, the first child of the first colony of Elizabethan England, gazing toward the future despite the odds of the history, mystery and fantasy that surround her.”

There`s a lot of history and fantasy around Virginia Dare. VDARE.com Editor Peter Brimelow covered some of it in Why VDARE.COM / The White Doe?, and there`s a lot more of it out there.You can see it in Wikipedia`s Literary and cultural references section of their Virginia Dare page. (Up for deletion because Lists of miscellaneous information should be avoided,” although actually they`re the most useful thing in Wikipedia.)

The Indian legend is that Virginia Dare was transformed into a “white doe” (hence our logo)but most of the iconography depicts her as a young woman living in the woods.

This image of Virginia Dare was used to sell tobacco in the 1870s.

The colour print of Virginia Dare in an animal-hide minidress is by J. L. G. Ferris,

Of course, there`s one qualification—all of these imagine what Virginia Dare, having gone native, would look like “had she grown to womanhood.”

It`s more likely, alas, that her first birthday was also her last. Since the Lost Colony is lost—they vanished to the last man, woman, and child—there`s no real reason to believe that the Indians would have saved Virginia Dare. Indeed, it`s not impossible that they ate her.

And if she did survive with an Indian tribe, she would have been the ultimate “white minority”—and her story might be more like that of Jaycee Dugard than that of Pocohontas—a depressing thought, compared to the legends.

In Why VDARE, Peter Brimelow wrote that

“Today, Virginia Dare seems to be vanishing from American education too. But she was a fixture for earlier generations. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt felt free to give a speech commemorating the 350th anniversary of her birth. At one point, I planned to pay homage by bestowing her name on the heroine of a projected fictional concluding chapter in Alien Nation, about the flight of the last white family in Los Angeles. It seemed . . . symmetrical.

“I was dissuaded.”

What would that girl`s later life be like?

Here`s hoping we don`t have to find out.

Previous Virginia Dare Pieces, and External Links