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Title page of A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, First edition London 1682.
Portrait of Mary Rowlandson.
From: A Narrative of the Captivity, Sufferings and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.
Boston: Nathaniel Coverly, 1770.

Mary White Rowlandson (c. 1637 – January 1710) was a colonial Americanmarker woman who was captured by Native Americans during King Philip's War. After her release, she wrote a book about her experience, The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, considered a seminal work in the American literary genre of captivity narratives.


Mary White was born in Englandmarker, but immigrated with her family to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and grew up in the frontier village of Lancastermarker, Massachusettsmarker. Daughter of one of the town's founding families (Vaughan 1981, 32), she married Joseph Rowlandson in 1656. Her husband was ordained a Puritan minister in ha 1660.

At sunrise, on February 10, 1675 , during King Philip's War, Lancaster came under attack by Narragansett, Wampanoag, and Nashaway/Nipmuc Indians. Rowlandson and her three children, Joseph, Mary, and Sarah, were among the hostages taken that day. For more than eleven weeks and five days (Neubauer 2001, 70), she and her children were forced to accompany the Indians as they fled through the wilderness to elude the colonial militia. (Part of the territory is now within Mount Grace State Forestmarker.) She later recounted how severe the conditions during her time of captivity were for all parties. On May 2, 1675, Rowlandson was ransomed for twenty pounds, raised by the women of Boston in a public subscription, and paid by John Hoar of Concordmarker at Redemption Rockmarker in Princetonmarker.

After her return, Rowlandson wrote an account of her trials. In simple, artless prose, Rowlandson recounted the stages of the odyssey in twenty distinct "Removes" or journeys. She witnessed the murder of friends, the death of her youngest child Sarah, and suffered starvation and depression, until she was finally reunited with her husband. During her captivity and suffering, Rowlandson continued to seek guidance from the Bible; the text of her narrative is replete with verses and references describing conditions similar to her own. She saw her trial as a test of faith and considered the "Indians" to be "instruments of Satan". Her final escape, she tells us, taught her "the more to acknowledge His hand and to see that our help is always in Him."

Until recently, scholars believed that Rowlandson had died before her narrative was published in 1682 (Vaughan 1981, 32). But, more recent historical research indicates that after the death of her husband, Mary Rowlandson re-married to a Mr. Talcott. She lived as Mary Talcott until January 1711, thus reaching an age of approximately 73 years (Salisbury 49-51).

Her book became one of the era's best-sellers, going through four editions in one year. The tensions between colonists and Native Americans, particularly in the aftermath of King Philip's War, was a source of anxiety. People feared losing their connection to their own society. They had great curiosity about the experience of one who had been "over the line", as a captive of American Indians and returned to colonial society. Many literate English people were already familiar with captivity narratives by British sailors and others taken captive at sea off North Africa and in the Middle East.

Her book earned Rowlandson an important place in the history of American literature. A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, is a frequently cited example of a captivity narrative, an important American literary genre used by James Fenimore Cooper, Ann Bleecker, John Williams, and James Seaver. Because of Rowlandson's close living conditions with her Indian captors, her book also is of interesting for its treatment of cultural contact. Finally, in its use of autobiography, Biblical typology, and homage to the "Jeremiad", Rowlandson's book helps the reader understand the Puritan mind.

See also


  1. Women's Indian Captivity Narratives, ed.Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, Penguin, London, 1998
  2. Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, New York: Pantheon Books, 2003, pp.12-17


  • Linda Colley, Captives: Britain, Empire, and the World, 1600-1850, New York: Pantheon Books, 2003
  • Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, Women's Indian Captivity Narratives. Penguin Classics Series, 1998. ISBN 0-14-043671-5.
  • Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Phiip's War and the Origins of American Identity, New York: Alfred A. Knopf & Co., 1998
  • George McMichael, ed. Anthology of American Literature, (4th edition) New York: Macmillan, 1989. ISBN 0-02-379621-9(v. 1)
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006. ISBN 0-670-03760-5
  • Paul Neubauer, "Indian Captivity in American Children's Literature: A Pre-Civil War Set of Stereotypes", The Lion and the Unicorn, Vol. 25, No. 1, (January 2001), 70-80
  • Mary Rowlandson, "Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Being a Narrative of the Captvity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson." Bedford/St. Martin's, 1997. ISBN 0-312-11151-7
  • Neal Salisbury, "Introduction: Mary Rowlandson and Her Removes." Rowlandson, Mary. The Sovereignty and Goodness of God. 1682. Ed. Neal Salisbury. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 1997. 1-60.
  • Alden T. Vaughn, Edward W. Clark, eds. Puritans among the Indians: accounts of captivity and Redemption 1676-1724, Cambridge, MA and London, England: Belknap, 1981

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