Sunday, March 24, 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR! (On March 25)

"From marie dire to ye generall court now this present 26th of ye 8 moth 59," a snippet of Mary Dyer's letter to the court that had sentenced her to hang with two other Quakers the next day.
A high-quality print of Mary's handwritten letter is available HERE.

©  2019 Christy K Robinson 

If you think keeping track of the changes on and off Daylight Savings Time are difficult, you should take a moment to thank historical authors for figuring out the date of historical events from notes that say "26th of ye 8 moth 59" (26 October 1659). And you thought October was the 10th month.  

Well, October has been the 10th month in the British Empire, including the American colonies, since 1752. But before then, the countries of the empire, including the American colonies, did business by the Julian Calendar, which started on March 25 (New Year's Day). If they celebrated with gift-giving in midwinter, it wasn't at Christmas, but traditionally at the January 1 other new year.

Party on! 17th century English people enjoying their ale in a pub. The man at top right is smoking a tobacco pipe.

Several religious groups, including Puritans and Quakers, didn't want to call months by their Roman or pagan-god names (March for Mars the god of war, or January for Janus the two-faced god), so they numbered the months in this way:
     March = 1st month 

     April = 2nd month
     May = 3rd month
     June = 4th month
     July = 5th month
     August = 6th month
     September (septem being Latin for seven) = 7th month
     October (octo being Latin for eight) = 8th month
     November (novem being Latin for nine) = 9th month
     December (decem being Latin for ten) = 10th month
     January = 11th month
     February = 12th month  

It's interesting that when William Dyer, the first Recorder, first Secretary of State, and first Attorney General of Rhode Island, wrote dates on documents, he did so in the conservative Puritan convention on the Portsmouth Compact, a religious document: "The 7th Day of the First Month, 1638" [7 March 1638], and on a letter to the Boston Puritan theocratic court to try to save Mary, he wrote "27th of 3rd 1660" [27 May 1660]. On Rhode Island documents, however, he wrote this way: "this present XX day of December Ano Domy 1644" [20 December 1644]. William Dyer knew his audience and communicated appropriately. 

When I'm teaching octaves or the 8va symbol to my piano students, I like to mess with their heads. 
     Me: "How many arms does an octopus have?" 
     Student: "Eight." 
     Me: "How many sides does an octagon have?"
     Student: "Eight."
     Me: "How many tones do you hear when I play a C scale?" 
     Student: (Counts the tones) "Eight."
     Me: "From C to the next C is an interval of an octave, of eight tones. What number month of the year is October?" 
     Student: (Counts months on fingers) "Ten." 
     Me: "Muahahaha!" (Short discussion of Julian and Gregorian calendars ensues.) 

Wikipedia explains the calendar and its change in this way: 

The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, was a reform of the Roman calendar. It took effect on 1 January 45 BC by edict. It was the predominant calendar in the Roman world, most of Europe, and in European settlements in the Americas and elsewhere, until it was refined and gradually replaced by the Gregorian calendar, promulgated in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.
The Gregorian calendar was decreed in 1582 by the papal bull Inter gravissimas by Pope Gregory XIII, to correct a divergence in the canonical date of the [northern] spring equinox from observed reality (due to an error in the Julian system) that affected the calculation of the date of Easter. Although Gregory's reform was enacted in the most solemn of forms available to the Church, the bull had no authority beyond the Catholic Church and the Papal States. The changes he was proposing were changes to the civil calendar, over which he had no formal authority. They required adoption by the civil authorities in each country to have legal effect.
The bull became the canon law of the Catholic Church in 1582, but it was not recognised by Protestant churches, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and a few others. Consequently, the days on which Easter and related holidays were celebrated by different Christian churches again diverged. 
In addition to moving New Year back to January 1, the New Style calendar (the Gregorian) subtracted 11 days to account for the earth's 365.25-day trip around the sun that had wreaked havoc with planning religious holidays like Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Not only was it as confusing and as contentious to the people of the British empire as a Brexit from the European Union, the Old Style/New Style calendar change still confuses historians, authors, and genealogy hobbyists today. If a baby was born on 7th of 1st month 1644/45, which date will you convert to in your ancestry records? 
     a.) January 7, 1644
     b.) January 7, 1645 
     c.) March 7, 1644 
     d.) March 7, 1645 

The answer is D, even though March 7 precedes New Year. Seems crazy, right? But it helps explain why your 9th great-grandparent has several dates listed by other descendants.

In the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, March 25 is Lady Day (as in "our Lady" or Mary the mother of Jesus) or Feast of the Anunciation, the announcement by the angel that Mary would be the mother of the promised Messiah. Anunciation is nine months, the length of a pregnancy, before Christmas Day. Almost everyone, including the papacy, agrees that December 25 is a manmade holiday, not the actual birthday of Jesus. 

In some cultures, New Year was April 1, and tied up with April Fools' Day origins. But for business and legal purposes for several centuries, March 25 was designated.

Aren't you glad we've standardized most calendars across the globe?

Good luck with your New Year resolutions. I only hope you've recovered from that whole "spring forward" thing on Daylight Savings Time!

Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Friday, March 15, 2019

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Mary Barrett Dyer

© 2018 Christy K Robinson

During Women’s History Month, we often hear the stories of women in recent history.  This article celebrates a woman who gave her life to force the New England theocracy to stop persecuting (fining, beating, torturing, hanging) those who believed differently than the fundamental dogma. Meet Mary Barrett Dyer, 1611-1660.

Mary Barrett was raised in London, to parents history has lost track of. Unusually for a girl of her era, she was well educated and could converse on traditional “men’s” subjects. She could write, which not all men could do, and she had knowledge of several religious denominations: she was married as an Anglican, she was admitted to membership in Boston First Church of Christ (Puritan), joined the Antinomian movement of Anne Hutchinson, and became a Friend (Quaker) in the 1650s.  She married William Dyer, a remarkable man, in 1633, and they joined about 35,000 Puritans in the Great Migration to Boston in 1635.

Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, had been founded as the City Upon a Hill by members of the Winthrop Fleet in 1630. It was meant to be a New Jerusalem where the theocratic government and utopian society would usher in the second coming of Christ. They’d seen the signs of the end with blood moons, solar eclipses, starfalls and comets, earthquakes, and believed the Elect (those who God predestined to salvation) would be taken to heaven in their lifetimes.
Mary Dyer at the Friends Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Artist: Sylvia Shaw Judson

The Bay Colony was governed by Puritan ministers and magistrates who were far more zealous or fanatical than English Puritans. Plainly and simply, it was a theocracy. The voters and jurymen were freemen who were members of their churches—and membership was not easy to obtain without an interview, personal testimony, and recommendations. Those who committed adultery were subject to severe whippings and possibly hanging, and members were encouraged to report crimes for the purpose of purifying the church and greater community. They were known to drop in on other members and quiz their children on their catechism. The Massachusetts Bay founders believed that religious error or dissent from their dogma was treasonable.

Along came Anne Hutchinson, who turned Massachusetts on its ear by teaching Bible studies in her home, emphasizing the New Testament covenant and salvation by grace, in contrast to the adherence to Old Testament laws and trying to be saved by keeping religious and ceremonial laws. Mary Dyer was one of Anne’s friends, and Gov. John Winthrop described Mary as “a very proper and fair woman, and both of them notoriously infected with Mrs. Hutchinson's errors, and very censorious and troublesome, (she being of a very proud spirit, and much addicted to revelations)."

One of the main accusers of Hutchinson and Dyer was Rev. Thomas Weld, who accused the Hutchinson followers of gaining adherents by
“Being once acquainted with them, they would strangely labour to insi­nuate themselves into their affections, by loving salutes, humble carriage, kind invitements, friendly visits, and so they would win upon men, and steal into their bosoms before they were aware. Yea, as soon as any new-comers (especial­ly, men of note, worth and activity, fit instruments to advance their design) were landed, they would be sure to welcome them, shew them all courtesie, and offer them room in their own houses, or of some of their own Sect…”

That sounds to my 21st century ears like community outreach  or personal evangelism. To the 17th century Puritans, it was a seditious political movement that threatened the vision of the City Upon a Hill.

Mary’s husband William was involved with Hutchinson’s religious and political movement in Boston, and signed a remonstrance against the government. Just before he had his civil rights revoked, Mary gave stillbirth to the first “monster” in America: a seven-months anencephalic and spina bifida-afflicted girl. Only a few people knew of it in October 1637, but when Anne Hutchinson was excommunicated in 1638, Mary took Anne’s hand as she was told to depart the meetinghouse, and someone told the crowd that Mary was the mother of a monster. The fetus was exhumed and it was pronounced God’s judgment on her heresy. 

Mary and William co-founded both Portsmouth and Newport, Rhode Island, with William taking an active role in government, including being appointed first Recorder, first Secretary of State, first Attorney General, and Commander in Chief Upon the Seas for New England. Rhode Island formed the first democracy disconnected from ecclesiastical control. From 1635-1650, Mary bore six children who lived to adulthood.

In 1652, just before the Anglo-Dutch naval war broke out, William was sent to England to secure a new charter of liberties and his naval commission, and Mary sailed there, too. She stayed, probably with influential family friends, until early 1657. She had been “convinced” as a Quaker during that time. Quakers were not popular in England or America because of their criticism of orthodox religion, their radical behavior in disrupting churches, and because they encouraged women to testify and preach. In 1656, the first Quaker missionaries arrived in southern New England. They were arrested, tortured, suffered confiscations of their farms, and then tried in court. They schooled the magistrates, asking what law they’d broken. The theocrats hastily created laws after the fact, to viciously persecute and kill these nonconformists. 

Mary knew exactly what she was coming home to in 1657. She intentionally sailed for Boston, rather than for her home ports in Rhode Island, a haven for religious nonconformists. The Massachusetts assistant governor promptly cast her into prison because of her Quaker beliefs. Already being famous as the mother of the monster, they knew she had a high social status because of her husband.

Over the next two and a half years, Mary was jailed several times for civil disobedience—not her religion. Surrounding colonies banished her “on pain of death” if she returned. Nevertheless, she persisted. They didn’t want to hang her and create a martyr, so she was released several times. They hanged two Quaker men in 1659, but their deaths had no effect on the bloody laws. Mary decided they needed a woman to protest, and give up her life if necessary—an educated, beautiful woman who was the perfect wife and mother, and famous at that. In May 1660, she returned to Boston at the time when the city was crowded for elections and courts. She showed up at the prison to encourage the Quakers inside, but apparently also to make her presence known. She was cast into prison, given a chance to go home, shut up, and be safe, but she refused.

On June 1, 1660, Mary Dyer marched a mile from the prison to the gallows on Boston Neck, with a large militia escorting her. They weren’t there to protect Mary: the crowd had sympathy for her. The pikemen and musketeers were there as security for the government officers and ministers who reviled her.

Mary recognized her duty to speak to oppression, and to the torture and imprisonment of her fellow believers. Her death was reported to King Charles II, who wrote an order forbidding capital punishment for religion based on a letter Mary wrote. Two years later, he ratified a new, groundbreaking charter (which William Dyer had a hand in) for Rhode Island, guaranteeing religious freedom and liberty of conscience.  It was one of the templates for the U.S. Constitution, 130 years later. Other countries have modeled their constitutions and rights on those of the United States: these liberties have become global.

Does Mary Dyer still have the ability to inspire you, 
400 years later, or are you content to say that she was your ancestor, and then change the subject? 

The battle for religious liberty, though encoded in law and enshrined in the Constitution, rages on even to this day. Stay vigilant. Note that federal and Supreme Courts, Congress, state legislatures, lobbyists, and media influencers have a hard grip on your freedoms. Write or call, and give them a piece of your mind. Do it often. They work for us.

It’s time for you and all of us to summon the courage and vision of Mary Dyer.


Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)

Friday, March 8, 2019

Women's History Month: America's Founding Mothers

March 8 is International Women's Day, and March is Women's History Month. 

Here are the FIRST WOMEN IN AMERICA to defy oppression and advocate "liberty of conscience," including religious liberty and freedom of speech. 


Christy K Robinson is author of these books:
Mary Dyer Illuminated Vol. 1 (2013)  
Effigy Hunter (2015)  

And of these sites:  
Discovering Love  (inspiration and service)
Rooting for Ancestors  (history and genealogy)
William and Mary Barrett Dyer (17th century culture and history of England and New England)
Editornado [ed•i•tohr•NAY•doh] (Words. Communications. Book reviews. Cartoons.)