Biography of a
By Ruth Plimpton
Review of 2011 Edition
I would imagine that anybody reading this will recognize the name Joan of Arc, but do you know the name of Mary Dyer? Perhaps the Catholic Church has a better publicist than other Christian sects (LOL), else we should surely know more about what happened to Mary Dyer and others who lived in the early 1600s as early settlers in America...
Where Mary Dyer, the only woman, and other men were also murdered--hanged--because of their beliefs...
Most of us know that freedom of religion was a major issue in America's founding principles. We do not, however, know the level of intolerance and the hatred that was placed on many individuals during that time. In fact, it is a sad commentary that intolerance of our beliefs has been and continues to be a major issue in our world...
I, for one, was totally appalled by what happened during the early years in America. On the other hand, reading these historical facts was spiritually enriching to me. Ruth Plimpton has created one of the best historically significant books I've had the honor to read.
It is fascinating to consider that many "left England with their own unshakable beliefs and, once in New England, created laws to get rid of anyone who did not conform with their religious interpretations." (p. 11)
Mary and her husband William were just one couple who traveled to America. For Mary, especially, there was a personal spiritual journey that led her ultimately to leave her husband's presence (although still married) and travel to learn more about what she believed. Ultimately, she became a Quaker and it was her faith that led her to accept death rather than to reject what she had grown to believe.
While William never did become a Quaker, he never stopped loving Mary. He also fought his own battle against the prejudice that was routinely leading to whippings, banishment, and even death. Against the background of religious upheaval, we find that much of New England was being expanded to the South and new communities were springing up either with support and charter by England or, initially, by sale of land to the settlers by the Indians.
The main area of intolerance was located in Boston where Puritan law had been firmly established and based entirely on the Old Testament, "as interpreted by the magistrates and ministers of the colony." All civil law derived from the church. One of the better known men who questioned what was happening was Roger Williams when he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Colony.
It was the women of the colony who first began what was to lead to the first major division. Mary Dyer had a friend by the name of Anne Hutchinson. Of course, much was denied women at that time, so while doing the duties that were considered "women's work"; i.e., to fetch water, "bucket by bucket, day after day" the spring became a natural meeting place for them to talk. Many times, the discussion centered on what they had been most recently taught in church.
But then Anne Hutchinson opened her home for more indepth discussions. Soon those discussions were drawing women from all surrounding areas...and men began to attend! Those who had attended these gatherings were sharing a religion based upon "salvation by grace" and the inspirational messages were of "love, joy, and service to mankind found in the New Testament. (p. 39)
Soon, it was this group that were under attack...Many packed up and left and moved into what is now Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Reading about their living with the Indians, as well as watching a new land being developed is exciting as well as informative. The book is well written, with many relevant pictures and supporting references.
Historians...this is a must-read for you. For believers of all faiths, there is a lesson to be learned from Mary Dyer and others who died so that we might today have the freedom to express our own beliefs. A truly important addition to America's historical documentation!