|Mary (White) Rowlandson|
Mary Rowlandson from A Narrative of the Captivity, Sufferings and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, Boston: Nathaniel Coverly, 1770
Massachusetts Bay Colony
|Spouse(s)||Joseph Rowlandson, Captain Samuel Talcott|
|Children||Mary, Joseph, Mary, Sarah|
Mary (White) Rowlandson (c. 1637 – January 1711) was a colonial American woman who was captured by Native Americans during King Philip's War and held for 11 weeks before being ransomed. Years after her release, she wrote a book about her experience, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, which is considered a seminal American work in the literary genre of captivity narratives. It went through four printings in a short amount of time and garnered widespread readership, making it in effect the first American "bestseller."
Mary White was born c. 1637 in Somersetshire, England. The family left England sometime before 1650, settled at Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and moved in 1653 to Lancaster, on the Massachusetts frontier. There, she married Reverend Joseph Rowlandson, the son of Thomas Rowlandson of Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1656. Four children were born to the couple between 1658 and 1669, with their first daughter dying young.
At sunrise on February 10, 1675,[note 1] during King Philip's War, Lancaster came under attack by Narragansett, Wampanoag and Nashaway/Nipmuc Indians. During the surprise attack, the native Americans massacred 13 people, and at least 24 were taken into captive slavery, many of them injured. Rowlandson and her three children, Joseph, Mary, and Sarah, were among the hostages taken. Rowlandson's 6 year old daughter Sarah died from her wounds after a week of captivity. For more than 11 weeks and five days, she and her children were forced to accompany the Indians as they fled through the wilderness to elude the colonial militia.[note 2] Years later, she recounted the severe conditions during her captivity for all parties. On May 2, 1676, Rowlandson was ransomed for £20 raised by the women of Boston in a public subscription, and paid by John Hoar of Concord at Redemption Rock in Princeton, Massachusetts.
In 1677, Reverend Rowlandson moved his family to Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he was installed as pastor in April of that year. He died in Wethersfield in November 1678. Church officials granted his widow a pension of £30 per year.
Mary Rowlandson and her children moved to Boston where she wrote her captivity narrative. It was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1682, and in London the same year. At one time scholars believed that Rowlandson had died before her narrative was published, but she lived for many more years. On 6 August 1679, she had married Captain Samuel Talcott and taken his surname. She eventually died on 5 January 1711, outliving her spouse by more than 18 years.
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God
After her return, Rowlandson wrote a narrative of her captivity recounting the stages of her odyssey in twenty distinct "Removes" or journeys. During the attack on Lancaster, she witnessed the murder of friends and family, some stripped naked and disemboweled. Upon her capture, she travelled with her youngest child Sarah, suffering starvation and depression en route to an Indian village. Sarah, aged 6 years and 5 months, died shortly after arriving in the village. Mary and her other surviving child were kept separately and sold as property, until she was finally reunited with her husband. During her captivity, Rowlandson sought her guidance from the Bible; the text of her narrative is replete with verses and references describing conditions similar to her own.
Rowlandson's book became one of the era's best-sellers, going through four editions in one year. The tensions between colonists and Native Americans, particularly in the aftermath of King Philip's War, were a source of anxiety in the colonies. While fearing losing connection to their own society, colonists were intensely curious about the experience of one who had been "over the line", as a captive of American Indians, and returned to colonial society. Many literate English people were familiar with the captivity narratives written by British sailors and passengers during the 17th century, who were often taken captive at sea off North Africa and sometimes sold into slavery in the Middle East. The narratives were often expressed as spiritual journeys and redemptions.
Rowlandson's book earned the colonist an important place in the history of American literature. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson is a frequently cited example of a captivity narrative. This important American literary genre was drawn from by the later nineteenth-century writers James Fenimore Cooper, Ann Bleecker, John Williams, and James Seaver, in their portrayal of colonial times. Because of Rowlandson's close encounter with her Indian captors, her book is interesting for its treatment of cultural contact. Finally, in its use of autobiography, Biblical typology, and homage to the "Jeremiad", Rowlandson's book helps the reader understand the Puritan mind.
"Fear of the New World"
A strong theme in Rowlandson's narrative is her fearful hesitation of the new world. When taken captive after the attack on Lancaster, Rowlandson was forced to face new environments and learn to adapt around the Native Americans, people whom she often referred to as "savages." Rowlandson and her family were accustomed to their life in Lancaster that was filled with people of the Puritan faith, and inexperienced with diversity in their life. Being adapted to this sheltered life, Rowlandson relied on her faith to get her through this very difficult experience. Rowlandson was unsure how far the colonists should branch out into the wilderness and leave their homes. With this belief, it left her uncomfortable about how far the Indians were traveling out west. She describes her experiences throughout her captivity as being dreadful and repulsive.
However Rowlandson learned to adapt and strive to make it through this alive. She learned how to gather food for herself, tolerate the ways of the Indians, and make clothes for the tribe. She was in fear of her own capacity for savagery (for example, when she eats a piece of raw horse meat) Rowlandson's experience brings her further from what she had known and knowledge about the natural world.[clarification needed] Rowlandson was in fear of what was to come, she knew life would never be the same.
"Christian Imagery and the Bible"
It is repeatedly noticed throughout the story of her captivity that Rowlandson relies heavily upon her Puritan faith, often quoting Bible verses to reinforce her descriptions of a world of dichotomies: punishment and retribution, darkness and light, and good and evil. The pattern of her usage of scripture shows that Rowlandson would draw strength from scripture when she was weak. This also shows her Puritan faith and Puritans belief that God's grace and providence shape the events of the world. Rowlandson tries to make sense of her situation by drawing parallels between her own situation and biblical verses.
An example, when Rowlandson did not know where her children were (or even whether they were alive), she states, "And my poor girl, I knew not where she was, not whether she was sick, or well, or alive, or dead. I repaired under these thoughts to my Bible (my great comfort in that time) and that scripture came to my hand, 'Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee' (Psalm 55.22)."
- Hilary Holladay's book of poems The Dreams of Mary Rowlandson (Loom Press, 2006) recreates her capture by Indians in poetic vignettes, using epigraphs from Rowlandson's own narrative in addition.
- Monoco, Nashaway sachem
- John Williams (Reverend), who wrote a captivity narrative after being captured in the 1704 Raid on Deerfield
- Although Rowlandson writes that her captivity began on 1 February 1675, she was following the Julian calendar. As Neal Salisbury points out, the date according to the Georgian calendar was a year and ten days later, 11 February 1676 (see Old Style and New Style dates). Neal Salisburgy (ed) The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed (Boston: Bedford Books, 1997),63. Rowlandson, Mary. Narrative of the captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.
- Part of the territory is now within Mount Grace State Forest.
- Sweeney, Kevin (2008). "Taken by Indians". American Heritage (Fall).[dead link]
- Rowlandson 1997
- Waldrup 1999, p. 168
- Neubauer 2001, p. 70
- Vaughn & Clark 1981, p. 32
- Derounian-Stodola & Levernier 1993, p. 97
- Colley 2003, pp. 12–17
- "The Sovereignty and Goodness of God". SparkNotes. Retrieved 2012-04-29.
- JMU English Faculty: Hilary Holladay, James Madison University Department of English, 2013, retrieved 23 May 2013
- Works cited
- Colley, Linda (2003), Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, New York: Pantheon Books
- Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Zabelle; Levernier, James Arthur (1993), The Indian Captivity Narrative, 1550-1900, New York: Twayne Publishers, ISBN 0-8057-7533-1
- Neubauer, Paul (January 2001), "Indian Captivity in American Children's Literature: A Pre-Civil War Set of Stereotypes", The Lion and the Unicorn 25 (1)
- Rowlandson, Mary (1997), Salisbury, Neal, ed., The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Boston: Bedford-St. Martin's, ISBN 0-312-11151-7
- Vaughn, Alden T; Clark, Edward W., eds. (1981), Puritans Among the Indians: Accounts of Captivity and Redemption 1676-1724, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Belknap
- Waldrup, Carole Chandler (1999), Colonial Women: 23 Europeans Who Helped Build a Nation, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, ISBN 0-7864-0664-X
- Derounian-Stodola, Kathryn Zabelle (1998). Women's Indian Captivity Narratives. Penguin Classics Series. ISBN 0-14-043671-5.
- Lepore, Jill (1998). The Name of War: King Phiip's War and the Origins of American Identity. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
- McMichael, George, ed. (1989). Anthology of American Literature 1. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-379621-9.
- Philbrick, Nathaniel (2006). Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 0-670-03760-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mary Rowlandson|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1900 Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography article about Mary Rowlandson.|
- Works by Mary White Rowlandson at Project Gutenberg (plain text and related formats)
- Works by Mary White Rowlandson at Internet Archive (scanned books digitized facsimile formats)
- A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, audiobook by LibriVox
- Mary White Rowlandson, Women's History, About.com