Biography of Mary Rowlandson

Mary Rowlandson, neé Mary White, was born in Somerset, England in 1637, the fifth of eight children born to John White and Joan West. She traveled across the Atlantic as a child, arriving at Salem, Massachusetts in 1639. There, Rowlandson's father grew his property and joined the effort to create the town of Wenham. Rowlandson's mother helped establish Wenham's church in 1644, although Rowlandson's father was not a church member. Rowlandson's father returned to England for two years (1648-50) to handle financial affairs and rejoined the household when Rowlandson was 13. In 1653, the White family left Rowlandson's 20-year-old brother, Thomas, in charge of their Whenam properties and moved to the growing town of Lancaster, which at the time had about 35 households and neighbored Native American communities. Within a year, John White had become the largest landowner in Lancaster.

In 1656, Mary White became Mary Rowlandson in marrying Joseph Rowlandson, with whom she had three children. Joseph Rowlandson's family was low in wealth and reputation, but he compensated by graduating from Harvard College, being ordained a Puritan minister in 1660. He thereby earned the rare title of "mister" in a society very conscious of status, and became the first regular minister of Lancaster. Mary Rowlandson, already wealthy by her father's efforts, became the only woman in Lancaster with the title "mistress" through her marriage to Joseph Rowlandson. As his wife, Mrs. Rowlandson was considered one of God's "saints" and a congregational leader. She was also the most outstanding member of a women's group that upheld community standards of conduct, oversaw births, gave charity to those in need, and organized exchanges of goods and services among neighbors. Mrs. Rowlandson gave birth to four children: Mary (1657-1660), Joseph (1661-1713), Mary (1665-?), and Sarah (1669-1669). In 1676, at about the age of 39, Rowlandson was captured and held by Native Americans for three months, as related in The Sovereignty and Goodness of God.

Following her release, she, Mr. Rowlandson, and their two surviving children lived for three months in Charlestown in a minister's home. They then lived in Boston in a house a local congregation rented on their behalf. They again became financially independent in 1677 when Mr. Rowlandson became a minister in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where, thanks to Mrs. Rowlandson's fame, he was one of the best paid clergymen in New England. He died a year and a half later at the age of 47.

Nine months later Mrs. Rowlandson married recently widowed, wealthy landowner Mister Samuel Talcott, who had served on the colony's war council during Metacom's War and who represented Wethersfield in Connecticut's General Court. In 1682 The Sovereignty and Goodness of God was published under the name Mary Rowlandson. Now Mary Talcott, she lived in Wethersfield, Connecticut, with Mr. Talcott until he died in 1691, and she stayed in Wethersfield until her own death in 1711 at the approximate age of 73. 

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