Mary Rowlandson

Mary Rowlandson

(c. 1635-1682)

“The Lord hath showed me the vanity of these outward things That we must rely on God himself and our whole dependence must be upon Him… I have learned to look beyond present and smaller troubles and to be quieted under them, as Moses said, Exod.l4:13, ‘Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.'”

The author of one of the greatest “captivity narratives,” Mary White was born, probably in England, around 1635. Almost nothing is known of her early years; her father was one of the original proprietors of the township of Lancaster, Massachusetts. In 1656, she married Joseph Rowlandson. He had been the sole graduate of Harvard College in 1652 and he became the first minister of Lancaster. The couple had four children.

The Rowlandsons lived a relatively uneventful life until February 10, 1676, when the warriors of Metacomet—called “King Philip” by the English—burst upon the town. This was one of the many raids made on New England villages during what became known as King Philip’s War (see no. 50).

Eleven townspeople were killed and 2 1 others were taken captive in the attack. Joseph Rowlandson was away that morning and was not captured, but his wife and their three surviving children were taken prisoner. The Indians led the captives away toward western Massachusetts.

Mary Rowlandsons youngest child died of exposure almost as soon as the journey began. During the 1 1 weeks and five days of captivity that followed, Rowlandson and her two children marched on a journey that took them to what is now Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

During their journey, Rowlandson kept a diary of the 20 “removes”—as she called the daily marches and nightly camps—and an account of the grueling hardships she and her children endured. Still, by obeying their captors—and making shirts and knitting stockings— Rowlandson managed to obtain the good will of some of the Native Americans, including Metacomet.

On May 2, 1676, Mary Rowlandson and her two children were released for a ransom of twenty pounds sterling. “Redemption Rock” near the border of Princeton and Westminster, Massachusetts, remains a historic site to the present day.

In 1677, the Rowlandson family moved to Wethersfield, Connecticut, where Joseph Rowlandson became the town minister. He died in 1678, and the town voted an allowance of 30 pounds sterling per year to his widow, for as long as she remained in the village.

In 1682, The Soveraignty & Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness ofHis Promises Displayed was published. It contained Mary’s diary, and it became an instant success with the highly literate population of Puritan New England.