Mary White Rowlandson: Contribution as American Author

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      Mary Rowlandson was the earliest woman prose writer of considerable fame. As a wife of an American Puritan minister, Rowlandson lived in the frontier town of Lancaster, Massachusetts. During King Phillip’s War (1674-76) the Narragansett Indians raided the town, killed some of her family and took her two children into captivity. One child died instantly and other two were, by accident, separated from her. She was ransomed three months later through the efforts of her husband. This all happened during an Indian massacre in 1676. Returned to her husband and community, she confesses that she remains uncomfortable and alienated.

      Mary Rowlandson, children were restored to her. Her abducted kind of captivity has led her to a kind of exile. Her book The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed; being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) is a kind of thrilling account. Undoubtedly it fanned the flame of anti-Indian sentiment, as did John William’s The Redeemed Captive (1707), describing his two years in captivity by the French and Indians after a massacre. Comparing her captivity to a spiritual affliction, ’she tells how she was taken around the countryside by the Indians, and how she gradually learned how to survive with them. The book is a classic of the American captivity genre.

      Such writings by produced women are usually domestic accounts requiring no special education. It may be argued that those women’s literature benefits from its homely realism, common sense and wit. Certainly works like, Sarah Kemble Knight’s lively Journal (published posthumously in 1825) of a daring solo trip in 1704 from Boston to New York and back, avoids the baroque style complexity of much Puritan writing.

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