June 1, 1660: Mary Dyer is hanged. Mary was born in England of unknown parentage, although it is assumed she was of noble birth since she was an occasional guest of the royal court of King Charles I. The ballgown worn at court was one of the possessions she brought with her when she moved to the colonies. She married William Dyer, a fishmonger and milliner as well as a fellow Puritan in London on October 27, 1633. The couple had eight children, two of whom died in infancy. In 1634 or 35 the Dyers came to Massachusetts where William Dyer took the Oath of a Freeman at the General Court in Boston on March 3, 1635 (possibly 1636). They were admitted to the Boston Church on December 13, 1635.
In 1637, the Dyers openly supported Anne Hutchinson who heretically preached that God spoke directly to individuals rather than only through clergy. Both women joined Rev. John Wheelwright in organizing Bible study groups even though it was forbidden by the theocratic law of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Mary gave birth to a deformed stillborn baby on October 11, 1637 and buried it privately. When Governor John Winthrop learned of this event, he had the corpse exhumed and outlandishly described the infant in horrific manner and sent the descriptions to numerous correspondents. Accounts of the birth were even published in England as a warning against heresy.
In 1638, the Dyers were banished from the colony and moved to Rhode Island, following Hutchinson. Roger Williams suggested they move to Portsmouth where William signed the Portsmouth Compact in March 1638 along with 18 other men. The Dyers settled in Newport where they successfully farmed and William served as Secretary for the towns of Portsmouth and Newport and ultimately became Attorney General from 1650 to 1653. Mary grew dissatisfied and went to England alone where she joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and eventually became a preacher in her own right. William briefly joined her in England but returned to Rhode Island in 1652 while Mary stayed in England for five more years.
By the time she returned to the colonies, John Endicott was Governor and far less lenient with religious dissention. When Mary’s ship landed in Boston, she was immediately arrested. Three months later William got Mary released as long as she promised to never return to Massachusetts. Mary preached throughout New England and was arrested in 1658 and expelled from Connecticut. She continued to preach and returned to Massachusetts to spread her teachings. She was arrested in April 1660 and refused to recant. She was convicted and hanged on this day, one of four executed Quakers known as the Boston martyrs.
Nay, I came to keep bloodguiltiness from you, desireing you to repeal the unrighteous and unjust law made against the innocent servants of the Lord. Nay, man, I am not now to repent. – Mary Dyer’s last words
Every one goes astray, but the least imprudent are they who repent the soonest. – Voltaire
Yes, one can repent of moral transgression. The miracle of forgiveness is real, and true repentance is accepted of the Lord. – Ezra Taft Benson
Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone. – Ravi Zacharias
Also on this day: And Now – The News – In 1980 Ted Turner begins broadcasting with CNN.
Breathing – In 1974, the Heimlich Maneuver was published.
Not Hops Scotch – In 1495, Friar John Cor was listed as possessing ingredients to make Scotch.
Unlucky Ship – In 1813, James Lawrence took command of the USS Chesapeake.