Sunday, October 30, 2016

Women, A History: Mary Rowlandson - True American Survivor


Mary Rowlandson 
True American Survivor 
(1637-1711)


     I had never heard of Mary Rowlandson prior to taking my American Lierature class last semester. However, her personal narrative of her capture by several Indian tribes during King Philip's War, her hellish journey of loss and survival, and her miraculous homecoming left me amazed. One lonely women, a wife and mother, who had nothing but her domestic skills and her faith to overcome separation from her family, the death of her daughter and a never-ending fear of losing her life to her enemies. 

      She was born Mary White in Somerset, England. Her family moved to Salem and then to Lancaster, Massachusetts in the 1650's. When she was nineteen she married Reverand Joseph Rowlandson and they had four children. As was typical of the time, Mary was devoted to her young children and was a very skilled as a seamstress, a talent that would ultimately save her life. 

     In 1657, King Philip's War was raging on between the Native Americans and the European colonists. There had been attacks and raids from the Indians and overtime they came closer to Lancaster. On February 10, Lancaster was attacked by three different allied Indian tribes and she and her children, Joseph, Mary and Sarah were taken hostage. Sarah was badly wounded and died days later and Mary was soon separated from her other two children.

  
     In her narrative Mary described her eleven weeks of captivity where she was sold off from tribe to tribe. Sometimes she was treated kindly, but most of the times she suffered terrible physical abuse. Mary's only salvation was her seamstress skills. She sewed clothes and blankets as well as mended all for a little bit of food at the end of a long day of travel. While she was alone Mary would repeat Scripture and pray constantly for her children. 

     Finally, Mary was freed by King Philip through a ransom by the people of Boston and was soon reunited with her husband and three children. Afterwards, Joseph Rowlandson moved his family Westherfield, Connecticut, but died a year later. Mary moved her family to Boston where she  eventually married Captain Sumuel Talcott. Six years after her capture, Mary wrote her narrative of her survival, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. Her narrative was published in 1692, and was a success in both the colonies and England and is thought to be the first "American Bestseller."

     Mary died on January 5, 1711. Her bravery and heroism is marked in Puritan history and literature and to this day, Mary is considered one of the greatest survivors in American history.

   

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