A dramatisation of the story surrounding the death by hanging of the Quaker Mary Dyer in 1660

Death by hanging

Beatings became imprisonment, tongues bored became banishment, then hanging was imposed when these infuriating and unyielding ‘heretics’ and ‘blasphemers returned to try what they saw as unjust laws.

Four Quakers were hanged from 1659-61. The first hangings were in 1659, when Mary Dyer was sentenced with two Quaker men.

She was herself well-educated, wife to a well-respected public official, though from another Colony, and mother to a large family. Her eventual death by hanging had a dramatic influence in changing attitudes in the Colony.

The Quaker men with her were hanged, but she was reprieved in front of the hanging tree, with the rope around her neck, and banished. She returned seven months later, this time to meet her death in 1660.

From the ‘orthodox’ Puritan point of view, the four were responsible for their own deaths as, even after sentence, they were offered their lives and free passage away if they promised to remain out of the Colony. Each refused saying they were there obeying their conscience and the leadings of the Spirit against unjust laws.

The Puritan leadership said the Quakers hanged were “heretics, blasphemers and insurrectionists”.

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