Mary Dyer's "Monster"
|Mary (Barrett) Dyer's life in New England is so thoroughly documented that I will not try to cover it all here. At the
bottom of this page you will find links to some of the most informative sites about Mary.
Regarding Mary Dyer's "Monster" from Governor John Winthrop's Journal:
October 17 , and the child buried, (being still-born,) and viewed of none but Mrs. Hutchinson and the
midwife, a rank familist also [a follower of Mrs. Hutchinson]; and another woman had a glimpse of it, who not
being able to keep counsel, as the other two did, some rumor began to spread, that the child was a monster.
One of the elders, hearing of it, asked Mrs. Hutchinson, when she was ready to depart; whereupon she told him
how it was, and said she meant to have it chronicled, but excused her concealing of it till then, (by advice, as she
said, of Mr. Cotton) [John Cotton, a Boston minister and former counselor to Anne Hutchinson], which coming to
the governor’s knowledge, he called another of the magistrates and that elder, and sent for the midwife, and
examined her about it.
At first she confessed only, that the head was defective and misplaced, but being told that Mrs. Hutchinson had
revealed all, and that he intended to have it taken up and viewed, she made this report of it, viz.: it was a woman
child, stillborn, about two months before the just time, having life a few hours before; it came hiplings [bottom
first] till she turned it, it was of ordinary bigness; it had a face, but no head, and the ears stood upon the
shoulders and were like an ape’s; it had no forehead, but over the eyes four horns, hard and sharp; two of them
were above one inch long, the other two shorter; the eyes standing out, and the mouth also; the nose hooked
upward; all over the breast and back full of sharp pricks and scales, like a thornback [a fish with dorsal spines];
the navel and all the belly, with the distinction of the sex, were where the belly should be, and the back and hips
before, where the belly should have been; and the back and hips before, where the belly should have been;
behind, between the shoulders, it had two mouths, and in each of them a piece of red flesh sticking out; it had
arms and legs as other children; but, instead of toes, it had on each foot three claws, like a young fowl with
The governor speaking with Mr. Cotton about it, he told him the reason why he advised them to conceal it: 1.
Because he saw a providence of God in it, that the rest of the women, which were coming and going in the time
of her travail, should then be absent. 2. He considered that, if it had been his own case, he should have desired
to have had it concealed. 3. He had known other monstrous births, which had been concealed, and that he
thought God might intend only the instruction of the parents, and such other to whom it was known, etc. The
like apology he made for himself in public, which was well accepted …
The governor, with advice of some other of the magistrates and elders of Boston, caused the said monster to be
taken up, and though it were much corrupted, yet most of those things were to be seen, as the horns and claws,
the scales, etc. When it died in the mother’s body, (which was about two hours before the birth,) the whereon
the mother lay, and withal there was such a noisome savor [odor], as most of the women were taken with
extreme vomiting and purging, so as they were forced to depart; and others of them their children were taken
with convulsions, (which they never had before nor after,) and so were sent for home, so as by these occasions
it came to be concealed.
Another thing observable was, the discovery of it, which was just when Mrs. Hutchinson was cast out of the
church. For Mrs. Dyer going forth with her, a stranger asked, what young woman it was. The others answered, it
was the woman which had the monster; which gave the first occasion to some that heard it to speak of it …
Another observable passage was, that the father of this monster, coming home at this very time, was the next
Lord’s day, by an unexpected providence, questioned in the church for divers monstrous errors, as denying all
inherent righteousness, etc., which he maintained, and was for the same admonished.
Journal of Governor John Winthrop
John Winthrop kept track of the rebels even after they moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Rhode Island. He
wrote that an earthquake shook Portsmouth while Anne and her friends were at prayer, and that she called it a
sign of God’s approval. He took even sterner note when Anne had a miscarriage in May 1638, bearing a mass
described by Reverend Cotton as several lumps of man’s seed, without any alteration, or mixture of any thing
from the woman. The rumor went around that Sir Henry Vane had debauched both Anne and Mary, causing
them to bear monsters.
Here are some excellent websites about Mary (Barrett) Dyer:
Mary Dyer on Wikipedia
Mary Dyer on RootsWeb
a superb website about Mary Dyer
Excellent blog about Mary and William Dyer
Mary Barrett Dyer on Facebook