With a current population of 318 million people, it is hard to imagine 1770 when the 13 original colonies had a population of 2.1 million which at the time was one-third the population of Britain.
Even though we refer to the Declaration of Independence as the breaking away from Britain’s authority over the colonies, it is interesting to remember that colonization began a long time before the British government took an interest in the colonies. The United States is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries, which started long before we became a nation.
After Columbus’ first voyage to the New World in 1492, other explorers and settlements followed in Florida and the American Southwest. There were also some French attempts to colonize the east coast, and later more successful settlements along the Mississippi River. English settlements on the east coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and the Pilgrims’ Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal living failed until the introduction of private farm holdings. The continent’s first elected legislative assembly, Virginia’s House of Burgesses created in 1619, and the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.
It is reassuring to remember that even though it took 150 years after the Virginia’s House of Burgesses was created for the Declaration of Independence to be ratified, independence from Britain was eventually attained. Worthwhile change takes time and perseverance, sometimes the struggle takes place over generations, but our strong and diverse nation has been a beacon of hope for those around the world seeking freedom. On this day of celebration let’s remember where we have come from in our short 238 year history, but mostly let’s remember where we are headed.
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW Foundation) was the first foundation dedicated to conducting research and providing information solely about working women. Since then, we have partnered with employers to create successful workplaces that embrace and practice diversity, equity and work-life balance convening employers, working women and policymakers to promote systemic workplace change. With our long roots and own history of nearly a century, BPW Foundation is transforming today’s workplace for the better.