Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Anne Hutchinson: Brief life of Harvard's "midwife" from Harvard Magazine

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Anne Hutchinson

Brief life of Harvard's "midwife": 1595-1643

On June 2, 1922, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts received from the Anne Hutchinson Memorial Association and the State Federation of Women's Clubs a bronze statue of Anne Hutchinson. The inscription read in part:
In Memory of Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Courageous Exponent of Civil Liberty
and Religious Toleration
It might have added that Mrs. Hutchinson was the mother of New England's first and most serious theological schism (traditionally known as the Antinomian Controversy); that in debate she bested the best of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's male preachers, theologians, and magistrates; and that as a result of her heresy the colony determined to provide for the education of a new generation of ministers and theologians who would secure New England's civil and theological peace against future seditious Mrs. Hutchinsons "when our present ministers shall lie in the dust," as the inscription on the Johnston Gate puts it. Thus, Anne Hutchinson was midwife to what would become Harvard College...

Read the rest of the story at Harvard Magazine,
Christy K Robinson, the author of this Dyer research blog and three books on William and Mary Barrett Dyer, has been invited to participate in a conference on Anne Hutchinson, held in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York in July 2016. Christy will take her place on a panel discussion, and speak about Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer at Harvard University. (Which, as you may know, is a very big deal!) If the books, blog, and Facebook pages have been a valuable resource to your genealogy and family history, please consider making a gift to enable Christy to attend the conference. You may click this link to learn more:

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mary Dyer changed the world. This is how.

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

Mary Barrett Dyer didn't stop to ask if the people of New England who were being beaten and whipped (with scarring for life), imprisoned in Boston and New Haven prisons without heat during polar blizzards, fined into poverty, having their property confiscated and given to the religious magistrates to dispense, or were hanged, were "worthy" of her sacrifice.

Mary Dyer purposely left a place of safety on Shelter Island, literally crossed the ocean to get to Providence, and walked more than 40 miles through dangerous wilderness, to give up her life if the theocratic government would not rescind their "bloody law" against non-conformists. She didn't sneak into Boston: she boldly appeared there when there were hundreds or thousands more people in town for the annual elections and superior courts.

She wasn't an obscure, no-name bumpkin: she was a co-founder of Portsmouth and Newport. She was the wife of the first attorney general in America, an admiralty court judge, the commander-in-chief of the Anglo-Dutch war in New England waters, and solicitor general of Rhode Island. She was better educated than many men of her generation. She'd been reprieved from the gallows seven months before, in a scripted drama cooked up by the governor, his staff, and several ministers, because they knew killing her would  antagonize the many people who respected and sided with Mary.

Mary defied that theocratic government to call attention to their brutality and injustice, and was prepared to die to stop their practices and spare people of conscience. People like Quakers and Baptists, and those who didn't share the same beliefs as the oppressors. And she went through with it, even when she was offered her life if she'd just leave Massachusetts.

That's what love does. That's what a mother would do for her children, and other peoples' children, young or old. And whether or not we carry Mary Barrett Dyer's DNA, we are all her children because of her civil disobedience unto death. That was love. Be like Mary. Love one another, whether they're worthy or not. It will change your life. And it will change the world.

Christy K Robinson has written three books about Mary Dyer and her associates, and has been invited to take part in the "Our Founding Mothers" event at Harvard University in July 2016. If you enjoy this Dyer blog or the books, please consider helping with the travel expense at GoFundMe. <--Click that link. Thank you very much! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Send a 5-star author to Harvard University

Christy K Robinson, author of The Dyers books and this blog, has been invited to speak at Harvard University on the 17th-century civil rights pioneer and religious figure, Anne Marbury Hutchinson, and is requesting assistance to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pay for a round-trip flight, economy hotel, and related travel expenses including a 60-mile trip to Newport, Rhode Island, to investigate placing a memorial to William Dyer.

With years of research behind her, she’s written six books, four of them about the brilliant founders of New England: Mary and William Dyer, Anne Hutchinson and son Edward Hutchinson, Katherine Marbury Scott, Sir Henry Vane, John Winthrop, John Cotton, John Endecott, and many others. Christy’s books have received hundreds of compliments and five-star reviews from readers and other authors.

Rather than judge the history-makers by 21st-century standards, Christy places them in their own culture, climate, politics, religions, and timelines. Motivations behind their actions become clear in that light. Big holes in what we know about them are filled in with this kind of research.

Even after publication of the books, Christy’s research has continued, and is published free on several blogs. The Dyer blog receives 4,500-6,000 page views every month. Christy administers several Facebook pages about these 17th-century American founders, including a group for descendants of William and Mary Dyer, and she contributes new research to a descendants group for Anne Hutchinson. One of the organizers of the Harvard event commented on an article at the Wm & Mary Barrett Dyer blog ,  “You should know, Christy, this very blog posting was the inspiration for this July's OUR FOUNDING MOTHERS CELEBRATION, on the 425th birthday of Anne Marbury Hutchinson. Hope you can make it!”

But self-employment doesn’t budget for a 2,700-mile business trip to Harvard University. Your gift will help make possible this once-in-a-lifetime honor of being invited to contribute her research on Anne Hutchinson’s 425th birthday in July 2016.

Gifts of $200 or more will be rewarded with an autographed copy of Christy’s new book on Anne Hutchinson, to be published in August 2016, and an autographed set of Volumes 1 and 2 of the Dyers series.

Gifts of $100-199 will be rewarded with an autographed set of Volumes 1 and 2 of the Dyers series.

All other gifts will be gratefully received.

Will you help make this dream happen before June 25? To participate, go to
and scroll to the bottom for the Donate button. And please do me the favor of Facebook sharing, tweeting, LinkedIn, and G+ shares.

Christy Robinson will take part in a presentation on Anne Hutchinson
at Harvard University Divinity School on July 21, 2016.
Christy K Robinson has researched the Dyers for many years,
discovering previously-unknown facts about them,
and wrote three books (two fiction and one nonfiction)
about them in 2013 and 2014. You can find the books at

Thursday, April 14, 2016

May Day, the Maypole, and sincerely-held beliefs in the 1620s

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

Was it a religious strike against a pagan symbol, or was it a commercial interest that made the destruction of the Maypole such a tempest?

Thomas Morton was a bad, bad man. He was of a similar age with Anne Hutchinson, Gov. John Endecott, and Gov. John Winthrop, born in 1590. He was an English lawyer before he sailed to Massachusetts Bay in 1622, returned in 1625, and became a thorn in the side of the Plymouth Pilgrims and later the Puritans who founded Salem and Boston.

He settled with some investor-adventurers in what is now Quincy, and proceeded to drink with the Indians and to give them guns to procure furs—which terrified the Pilgrims 26 miles to the south. Morton was no Separatist, Pilgrim, or Puritan, but an Anglican who would rather be hunting and fishing than sitting in a church, anyway. You can read more about Morton and his run-ins with Massachusetts government at his profile, . (Hint: he was jailed several times, and died poverty-stricken in Maine in the 1640s.)
There probably were no women in Morton's Merrymount
community, unless they were servants or Indians.

Perhaps the event that Morton is remembered for the most is that he and his men set up an eighty-foot Maypole at a hill he named Merrymount (half a mile from Mt. Wollaston, where the Hutchinsons would own a farm from 1634 on), and there, his adventurers drank and danced with the Indians on the first day of May, 1625.

"The Inhabitants of . . . Mare Mount . . . did devise amongst themselves . . . Revels and merriment after the old English custome; (they) prepared to sett up a Maypole upon the festivall day . . . and therefore brewed a barrell of excellent beare . . . to be spent, with other good cheare, for all commers of that day. And . . . they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present occasion. And upon May day they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drumes, gunnes, pistols and other fitting instruments, for the purpose; and there erected it with the help of Salvages, that came thether to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot longe was reared up, with a peare of buckshorns nayled one somewhat neare unto the top of it: where it stood, as a faire sea mark for directions how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Mare Mount."
(Morton, The New England Cannan, Book III, Chapter 14.)

Things that are 80 feet in length:
brigantine, Airbus A380, truck.
Now, an 80-foot pole is eight stories high, the length of an Airbus A380, and it would weigh about 10 tons, and that seems very large for a community of bachelors to fuss about. I watched a 1985 video of the raising of an 80-foot Maypole in Slingsby, UK, where they dug a large hole in which to seat the pole, then raised it with a crane before a band played “God Save the Queen.” To raise a 10-ton tree trunk with ropes and men to balance and stabilize it seems like a lot more work than drunken rebels would enjoy.

Did Morton's people raise the Maypole with its antlers on top as a billboard for ships coming into Massachusetts Bay, that they had furs and hides to sell to European traders, in competition with the Pilgrims who were supposed to be providing furs as a generous return to their investors? If they wanted an excuse to drink their barrel of beer and do some manly feat, a 20-foot pole with a flag would have sufficed. But an 80-foot pole might be a landmark to ships spotting a trading post.

Or maybe Morton and his company raised the Maypole and its secular revelry to purposely annoy and outrage their sober Pilgrim neighbors, who, along with the Scottish Presbyterians and the English Puritans, considered the Maypole to be a pagan idol. This seems to be the tack that Pilgrims used to justify their later actions.

May Day was a spring fertility festival in many European cultures, going back to prehistory. It was a cross-quarter day, halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, when the “veil” between the spirit world and our world was weak, and spirits could enter human beings and lead them astray. It was a time of sexual initiation, and girls who met boys in the tall grass or bushes came back with gowns of green, stained with chlorophyll.

During the centuries of Roman Catholic influence and authority, Christian churches were built on top of pagan worship sites to both conquer the previous culture’s gods and votive sites, and assimilate the old ways and worshipers into the new rites. Many astronomical, seasonal dates that had honored pagan gods were supplanted with saint festivals and holy days (holidays). Old customs took on new meanings, even if they were very thinly disguised.

At the English Reformation in the 16th century, Maypoles fell into disuse as the Puritan movement took the new Anglican Church further away from its Catholic (and therefore contaminated, pagan) roots. But the Puritans bent too far for many English people, and instituted a harsh, rigid, fundamentalist way of life that grated on Anglicans. In 1618, King James I, who had been plagued by rebellious and intransigent Puritan ministers, published a booklet called The Book of Sports (see article in this blog), that gave permission to, even directed, his subjects to break the Sabbath gloom with playing games and getting some healthy exercise. Among the activities the king suggested was to hold May games and set up Maypoles.

Our pleasure likewise is, That the Bishop of that Diocesse take the like straight order with all the Puritanes and Precisans within the same, either constraining them to conforme themselves, or to leave the County according to the Lawes of Our Kingdome, and Canons of Our Church, and so to strike equally on both hands, against the contemners of Our Authority, and adversaries of Our Church. And as for Our good peoples lawfull Recreation, Our pleasure likewise is, That after the end of Divine Service, Our good people be not disturbed, letted or discouraged from any lawful recreation, Such as dauncing, either men or women, Archery for men, leaping, vaultings or any other such harmelesse Recreation, nor from having of May Games, Whitsun [Pentecost] Ales; and Morris dances, and the setting up of Maypoles & other sports therewith used, So as the same be had in due & convenient time, without impediment or neglect of Divine Service: And that women shall have leave to carry rushes to the Church for the decoring of it, according to their old custome…

Morton’s first Maypole-raising was in 1625. As a lawyer and a subject of England, he knew he was within his rights, and fulfilling King James’ order, to set up a Maypole in his town. It seems that when Morton wasn’t being removed against his will to England and bouncing back to Massachusetts, he was drinking with the Indians, dealing guns to the Indians, and setting up a phallic symbol to madden the Pilgrim neighbors. But while Morton and his men were drunkenly contemplating their handiwork in 1628, Plymouth sent their military man, Myles Standish, to arrest Morton. Twenty-six miles on foot, or several hours of sailing, seems quite a distance for the Pilgrims to reach out to punish Morton, on his own land, for his revels. (The Pilgrims, who had escaped English persecution by fleeing to the Netherlands before risking their lives in savage wilderness of America, went out of their way to put an end to Morton’s religious beliefs.) They deposited Morton on an island with some provisions, until a ship could take him back to England, but he escaped with the help of his Indian associates. 

John Endecott, in his first term as governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, visited Merrymount in 1629, and had the Maypole taken down. Chopping it with an ax would be more dramatic, but he may have pulled it down with ropes. (An 80-foot tree trunk might be useful as a ship mast.) Of course, you remember Endecott as the governor who sent four Quakers, including Mary Dyer, to the gallows from 1659-1661, tortured and imprisoned hundreds of others, hanged a woman who believed she saw the ghost of her dead child, and beat people to a pulp (including Baptist minister Obadiah Holmes Sr.) if they didn’t conform to his narrow fundamentalism.

It wasn’t solely Endecott doing those actions. He was elected to office for numerous one-year terms as governor and assistant governor between 1629 and his death in 1665. Obviously, there was an element of colonial society who shared his ideology of religious government and enforcing certain beliefs.

In our society, we see similar events and responses in the news on a daily basis. Like the Maypole story, much of the news involves religious groups proclaiming their beliefs on morality issues such as same-sex relationships, sex outside marriage, contraconception and pregnancy termination, the death penalty, domestic violence, child molestation, anti [-Islamic/-Catholic/-Semitic/-pagan/-atheist, etc.]. There are also constant reports about prayer in public meetings, schools, and the military; and the existence of monuments or displays of the Ten Commandments at government buildings.

Knowing your history, and the forces and personalities behind it, is vitally important in slowing and stopping religious intolerance and oppression. Mary Dyer and her husband William, and the entire colony of Rhode Island, worked for years to develop a society of tolerance and human rights for all faiths, even those without faith, because without that provision, there is no true freedom. Mary intentionally defied Gov. Endecott and his system, and died to prove that religious liberty was a life and death matter. William Dyer, John Clarke, and Roger Williams codified that liberty in their constitution (the Charter of 1663), and their successful experiment with religious liberty and separation of church and state (a pet issue of Anne Hutchinson) was a huge influence on the United States Constitution written in the next century.
More reading on Morton or the Maypole
_____________________________ Good material on Merrymount., which is in Quincy, half a mile from Mt. Wollaston (where the Hutchinsons owned land).
______________________________  profile for Thomas Morton

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books, three of them on Mary and William Dyer (primarily), Gov. John Winthrop, Anne Hutchinson, and Edward Hutchinson. Click the book titles for links to 25%-off sale.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Political correction

© 2016 Christy K Robinson

Writers, reporters, critics, political satirists, internet trolls, and message-bearers, be glad of your constitutional rights to free speech and the privileges of citizenship.

Once upon a time in 1663-1664, in New Netherland (Long Island, pre-New York), the inhabitants of Bushwick complained of having money extorted by the Dutch West Indies Company (WIC), for the rights of citizenship. They could see that the colony was slipping away from the Netherlands, to become an English possession.

This unrest, after three Anglo-Dutch naval wars in the English Channel, the Caribbean, and the East Indies, preceded the Dutch surrender of New Netherland to the English. 

(Remember that William Dyer, Mary's husband, had been Commander-in-Chief-Upon-the-Seas in the 1652-54 First Anglo-Dutch War, part of which was carried out on a privateer basis in Long Island Sound.) 

In May 1664,

Jan Willemsen Van Iselsteyn, commonly called Jan of Leyden, for using abusive language and writing an insolent letter to the magistrates of Bushwick, was sentenced to be fastened to a stake near the gallows, with a bridle in his mouth, a bundle of rods under his arm, and a paper on his breast bearing the words,

Defamer of Magistrates
 After this ignominy he was to be banished, with costs. 

On the same day, William Jansen Traphagen, of Lemgo, for being the bearer of the above insolent letter to the magistrates of Bushwick [who were employed by the WIC], as well as for using very indecent language towards them, was also sentenced to be tied to the stake, in the place of public execution, with a paper on his breast, inscribed 'Lampoon carrier.' His punishment, also, was completed with banishment and costs.  Source: A History of the City of Brooklyn: Including the Old Town and ..., Volume 2, By Henry Reed Stiles

A "lampoon" is defined as "a sharp, often virulent satire directed against an individual or institution; a work of literature, art, or the like, ridiculing severely the character or behavior of a person, society, etc." The word was relatively new, about 20-30 years old, in 1664.

The bridle sometimes had spikes on the tongue (see image with bridle attachments), and was meant to reduce its wearer to the mute state of a farm animal. New Haven Colony tied a "key" into the mouth of Humphrey Norton, a Quaker missionary, to silence him, and if you look at the implements in the foreground of the image, you see the bridle bits look like keys.

To sum it up, the WIC government of Dutch Long Island were demanding money of the citizens, perhaps by taxing them or withholding rights over money, and several people protested in writing, since they were undoubtedly aware that the Dutch rule was doomed because the English were coming in. The WIC magistrates deemed this protest sedition and squelched it by bodily punishment, banishment, and court costs. Then the English took over in September 1664.

In the 1670s, William Dyer Jr. (son of William and Mary) was the King's customs inspector for New York, and the Mayor of New York.

Jan of Leyden wasn't the only man to be "insolent," use bad language, or react violently in the Dutch colony when his rights were threatened. I had a Dutch ancestor in that town, Dirck Volkertze, who was known, more than once, to settle arguments with a knife! On the other hand, their minister, Johann Theodorus Polhemus, also my ancestor, was well-respected and faithful to his God and his flock for decades, during both Dutch and English rule.

Related story about bridles in this site: Dorothy Waugh, young Quaker woman, described her experience with the bridle in Carlisle, England.

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books (all with five-star reviews), three of them concerning William and Mary Barrett Dyer and their associates in 17th-century England and New England. Click a highlighted link to read the reviews and purchase the books or ebooks.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Where did the DYER name come from?

© 2016 Christy K Robinson


Surnames (also called family names) were adopted in the 1200s and 1300s and people took their names from places, trades or professions, the head of the family or clan, and personal characteristics.

Some occupational names we recognize today are Tyler (made ceramic or clay tiles), Cartwright (built wagons), Carter (transported goods by wagon), Carpenter (built houses, churches, ships, and furniture), Mason (stone builder), Taylor (sewed clothing), Hooper (made barrel stays), Smith (blacksmith or metal worker), and many others. 

The Dyer name is not a rare one, and can't be traced back to one progenitor with many descendants. The name was one applied to a tradesman who dyed wool and cloth, which was a huge industry in Britain for hundreds of years.
15th century wool dyer and tapestry weaver.
(Yay for cats!)
See below for more images of dyers.

Robert le Deyare is registered in the 1275 Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire; Alexander Dyghere is listed in the 1296 Subsidy Rolls of Sussex; and Henry le Dyer is noted in the 1327 Subsidy Rolls of Derbyshire. Bryan Dyer and Wenefrid Ketton were married on June 3rd 1583, at Enfield, London, and the marriage of Thomas Dyer and Margaret Gibson took place at St. Mary at Hill, London, on August 27th 1593. In March 1634, John Dyer, aged 28 yrs., departed from the Port of London, aboard the "Christian" bound for New England. He was one of the earliest of the namebearers in the New World.

Notice from that quotation above, that "our" William Dyer wasn't the only Dyer to emigrate to New England. Nor was he the only William Dyer, for there were a William and Mary Dyer in Sheepscot, Maine, who were not the same as our William and Mary Barrett Dyer of Boston, Portsmouth, and Newport. 

William Dyer (who actually spelled his name "Dyre,") was born on his parents' farm in Kirkby LaThorpe, Lincolnshire, in September 1609. But his father, also a William Dyer, didn't have roots there. Many genealogists and researchers believe (but haven't proved) the father came from Somerset, a county in the southwest of England, near Bristol. 

Concentration of Dyer name in the United Kingdom. Notice the high incidence of the Dyer surname in Somerset County, in southwest Britain. The Somerset Dyers, who are more likely to be related to us than the other "hot" areas around England, may be our cousins 12 times removed.

Another surname site, Forebears, shows the Dyer surname around the world. If you go to the section "Dyer Reference and Research," you'll see links to yDNA projects specifically for the Dyer surname. If you've had the yDNA test, you can join the project.

Florentine dyers in 1458 Italy.

Left image: medieval English textile dyer.
Right image: English dyers, published in a 1596 book in Leyden, Netherlands (the destination of the English Pilgrims between 1610 and 1620, when many of them emigrated to Plymouth, Mass., on the

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

You can look at these antique maps for hours

© 2016 Christy K. Robinson 

Have you ever wondered about the image used in this blog's header? It's a portion of a large panel engraved in 1616 by Claes Jansz Visscher, a Dutch artist of the 17th century (when the Dyers lived). The amazing thing is that Visscher never visited England--so where did he get the descriptions of the River Thames and the hundreds of buildings in the engraving? How did he know where to plot St. Paul's, the Tower, the Globe Theater?

Mercurius Politicus, a blog about 17th century history, says that Visscher's panorama is derived from a 1593 map engraving by John Norden, a surveyor and engraver. 

1593-John Norden's map of London. Click to enlarge.
(Wikipedia Commons)
 Visscher used Norden's map as a resource, but tilted the view nearer the horizon and just higher than a cathedral spire. We can do that with Google Maps street view or Google Earth. But for a 17th century Dutchman who hadn't even visited London, his panorama is astounding!

We can go even further back to an angel's-eye view of Tudor London, with the 1560 Ralph Agas map called Civitas Londinium. (Where did these people get the idea for such a high-altitude perspective?!)

1560-Civitas Londinium, by Ralph Agas. Click to enlarge.
(Wikipedia Commons)

A similar panorama of London was engraved in 1647 by Vaclav "Wenceslaus" Hollar, an etcher from Prague, Bohemia.

1647-Long View of London, by Wenceslaus Hollar.   (Wikipedia Commons)

As part of the 1616-2016 commemoration of Shakespeare's death, London's Guildhall Gallery is exhibiting the modern version of Visscher's panorama. From the same birds-eye perspective Visscher used, modern artist Robin Reynolds has created a 2016 panorama of London. Since most of us are not able to attend the exhibit, the websites will have to do. To see the Visscher and Reynolds works compared side by side and with zoomed-in sections, check out this news item at the link. 

London panorama in 2016, by Robin Reynolds.
Before I wrote the books on the Dyers, I studied all the maps of the 16th and 17th centuries to determine where the Dyers lived, in relation to their church (St. Martin-in-the-Fields), William's master Walter Blackborne's house (where William was apprenticed, and where he and Mary lived when newlyweds), the New Exchange (where Blackborne and William Dyer were proprietors of a haberdashery), where Sir Henry Vane's parents lived, and many other locations. To see some close-ups and photos of the places, see my article in this blog, The Dyers of London and where they lived.

Christy K Robinson is the author of five books: