MARY ROWLANDSON, c. 1637-1711
Mary White Rowlandson holds a unique place in history, as author of A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, and one of the most frequently cited captivity narratives. Born in Somerset, England c. 1637, she settled with her family in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and moved to Lancaster in 1653 where she married Reverend John Rowlandson. The couple had four children, losing their first-born at a very young age.
During King Philip’s War, at sunrise on February 10, 1676, Lancaster, a town on the Massachusetts frontier, came under attack by the Narragansett, Wampanoag and Nashaway/Nipmuc Indians. The Native American raiding party killed over a dozen residents, and captured twenty-four. The captives included Mary and her children, Joseph, Mary and Sarah. Sarah died from her wounds during the first week of captivity. Rowlandson and her children traveled for eleven weeks and over 150 miles through the wilderness, avoiding the English militia while the Indians carried out other raids. They were ransomed for 20 pounds raised by the women of Boston and paid by John Hoar of Concord, at Redemption Rock in Princeton, MA.
In 1677, Reverend Rowlandson moved his family to Wethersfield, Connecticut. Moving to Boston after his death, it is here that Mary is believed to have written her narrative. Although her original manuscript has not survived, it was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1682 and in England the same year. She later remarried to Captain Samuel Talcott and died in 1711.
Mary witnessed the profound loss of friends and neighbors during the sunrise attack and traveled for months to many villages with her Native American captors. Forced to face a threatening environment, she feared and reviled her captors, yet strove to adapt and survive her captivity. Her narrative details her experiences and offers insight into the Puritan beliefs and intercultural contact at this period of history.