My historical novels Rebel Puritan and The Reputed Wife, Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter, colonial New England, travels, and whatever else seizes my fancy...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Why Herodias Long?

Jo Ann Butler

Why Herodias Long?
By Jo Ann Butler
Author of REBEL PURITAN and

I bear genes from Herodias Long and George Gardner passed from son to grandson, down to my maternal Grandma Gardner.  My genealogy research commenced with Grandma in 1978, and quickly led me to The Gardiners of Narragansett by Caroline Robinson.  There I found the George and Herodias as 1630s immigrants from England, but Herodias and her stormy life occupied far more space in the pages than George’s did.

Herodias and her first husband followed religious exiles from Massachusetts to Newport, Rhode Island.  She was married at the age of thirteen, but otherwise Herodias lived a modern life.  Unless they came from a powerful family, 17th-century wives were little more than the property of their husbands, and it was extremely rare for a woman to be granted a divorce unless she was abandoned.

However, Herodias was not afraid to pursue what she needed.  She petitioned for two divorces and was legally parted from both husbands after they proved unsuitable.  She acquired her own land (most female landowners were widows), and retained custody of some of her children.

I admire Herodias for her boldness and persistence, but particularly honor her for an act which does not appear in Rebel Puritan, the 2011 historical novel I wrote about her.  This incredible act of bravery is featured in my sequel, The Reputed Wife, which will be published in autumn, 2012.

Whipping Quakers in Boston
Missionaries from England’s Society of Friends first appeared in Boston in 1656, determined to bring their renewed faith to New England’s Puritans.  They were jailed, but when that did not discourage their acts of civil disobedience, both men and women were whipped with increasing savagery.

Herodias met the Friends – often called Quakers – through Mary Dyer, a Newport resident who had become a Quaker convert in England.  Though she may not have been a convert, Herodias walked fifty miles from Newport to Weymouth, Massachusetts to protest against the brutality, carrying a nursing infant in her arms.

Herodias, the Rebel Puritan
She had seen the wounds borne by Quakers whipped in Boston and New Haven.  She had met Humphrey Norton, whose hand was so deeply branded that he might never use it again.  She knew well that she might receive no mercy from Governor John Endecott and his Puritan magistrates and ministers.  And yet Herodias could not remain silent.

After speaking in Weymouth against the whippings, Herodias was arrested.  She and her maidservant were marched ten miles to Boston, where they were whipped on her naked backs in the street, then jailed for two weeks.

Herodias knew all of this could happen, and yet she spoke.  Some of her other acts scandalized her Rhode Island neighbors and her descendants, but for her courage I honor Herodias (Long) Hicks Gardner Porter.

Personal collection

1 comment:

  1. Herodias (Long) Gardiner is my 10th. Great Grandmother. I did not know this while I studied history in college a couple of years earlier. It was a welcome surprise to see her name show up on my family tree.

    Wade Gardner


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