Oswego Palladium-Times Jan. 24, 2011
By ERIN PLACE
When Fulton native Jo Ann Butler ran into problems publishing her book she wrote about her strong-willed female
ancestor who lived in Puritan New England, she decided to create her own publishing company and print the book
Just last week, the first copies of "Rebel Puritan: A Scandalous Life" arrived, which is the first of three books she plans
on penning about her eighth great-grandmother, Herodias Long. Butler's book is in the vein of historical fiction, which
follows Long's story from the time her mother sends her to London after her father's death from the bubonic plague - in
1636 - to the separation from her first and extremely abusive husband, John Hicks, and "takes up" with the man who is
According to Butler, she began researching Long in the 1970s after attending a family reunion, and someone had
suggested they start gathering information on the family's genealogy. "Mom and I got talking about it, and we're here
where the records are, so why don't we start? My uncle joined us pretty quickly thereafter," Butler said. "I found
Herodias very early, and she was fascinating. Every time I got to a library, I would look for her. I got to Salt Lake City,
that is where I met Richard, actually," she said about her partner.
Butler referenced court documents and gathered information about Long's life that would help her weave a tale of
historical fiction. "She was married when she was 13. We know quite a bit about her life because she had a couple of
very messy divorce requests, and the court records detail a lot more about her life than we know about most women
then. Usually you see them in the records when they're born, when they're married, when they have kids and when they
die, and that's all you know about them," Butler said.
She noted that even though things were done differently during these times, even Herodias' marriage at 13 was
unusual. "I went through and did a study of my own, and women tended to be somewhere between 18 and 20 (when
they were married). Men tended to be much older and wouldn't marry until they could support a family," Butler said. "If
you had a pregnancy, that would maybe move it up perhaps."
The author explained the story behind her main character’s first name, noting that Herodias was the woman in the Bible
who was responsible for getting John the Baptist killed. "If you remember the story about Salome dancing for King
Herod, well Herodias was her mother, and she was angry at John the Baptist because he had said she was sinning by
divorcing her husband so she could marry her husband's brother," Butler said. "Herodias' parents named her Herodias,
which is like naming your son Judas. So it is unusual."
Long met her first husband, Hicks, while staying in London after her father's death. The couple travels to Puritan New
England and stays in Massachusetts for a while. "There was another party in Massachusetts at the time that was kind of
opposed to some of the Puritan beliefs, and the Puritans just kicked them out and told them, 'You're banished. If you
stick around here, we will put you in jail,''' Butler said. "They lived to in Massachusetts for a couple of years and then
followed the party that was banished from Massachusetts, and followed them he down to Rhode Island, which was much
According to Butler, Long's husband was abusive and she tried for a couple of years to be free of him. She noted that
the court records are "thin and sketchy," but it was decided that Long would be able to separate from her husband.
"The governor wrote that he was afraid she was going to get killed," Butler said. She had originally thought she would
just write one book about Long, but it ended up being three different books in a small series. The initial book told the
first part of Long's tale, but also focuses on what was going on around her during this time period in New England.
"It turns out to be a look at the 17th century views and attitudes toward women, and the lack of their rights. She was
stuck with her marriage and the children, and if a woman received an inheritance from her family, legally it belonged to
her husband. So she could leave them, but she would lose her children," Butler said. "She had a very hard choice.
She finally said that she had to get away from him. After the separation, her husband went to the Dutch colony of New
Amsterdam, and took her three children and inheritance and vanished. It took another year for her to find out where
they had actually gone."
Butler noted that the only time frame she compressed in her book was when Long found out where her family had
gone. After the separation, Long almost immediately moves in with Butler's ancestor, George Gardner. Long told
everyone that she and Gardner were married, and 20 years after living with him, asked for a divorce because she said it
was bothering her conscience that they were not married.
Another source Butler was able to utilize in writing the story about her eighth great-grandmother was a document from
the Quakers. She noted that this portion of the story is not included in the first book, but the Quakers began entering
New England during the time Long was living in Rhode Island in the 1650s.
"The Puritans were absolutely adamant that they weren't going to be allowed in Massachusetts or Connecticut, and were
whipping and throwing them in jail for months. So my woman shouldered her infant daughter and walked from Newport,
R.I., up to Boston to protest the treatment of the Quakers," Butler said. "I don't think she was actually Quaker, but it was
wrong and she wanted to tell the people there what was going on in Boston and hopefully get their help in getting people
out of jail. She was whipped herself and jailed and got back to Rhode Island and eventually found a conscience about
not being married to George Gardner and got a separation from him.
"(She) took up with a third man who was old enough to be her father, which (sic) was one of the richest men in Rhode
Island. And he made her Gardner children his heirs, Butler, said. “So she was a very modern woman for the time. And I’
ve had a great deal of fun writing about her.”
Butler finished writing her book two years ago, which was when the fiction market was contracting. She noted she tried
to go the traditional route of getting her book published by trying to get an agent who would then try to get her a
publisher. At the time, she was in California helping care for her in-Iaws. She returned to her native Fulton roughly a
year ago, and this is when she decided to go ahead and publish her own book by starting her own publishing company,
Neverest Press. Butler noted that this process was easier than she thought it would be, though it was a bit time
Even though Butler finished writing her book two years ago, she actually began writing it in the mid-1990s. She noted
that the O.J. Simpson case influenced her a lot while she was penning Rebel Puritan. "I had the same feeling from the
coverage, and I didn't study the trial that well, but it sounded like his wife felt really trapped with him and fought with him
and finally had to get away," Butler said. "He couldn't accept her - and I don't think Herodias' husband could accept her
leaving him, either. If (Hicks) [had not] left Rhode Island, I think he might have killed her.”
Butler is roughly two-thirds of the way done with writing her second book, but not has set a finish date yet. She plans on
returning to California in the beginning of February to visit friends and family out there, and will promote her first book
while they are on the road. She also has entered Rebel Puritan into a few book contests, and hopes for successful
results from that. Butler is going to talk to local bookstores, such as Backstreet Bistro, in Fulton, and river’s end
bookstore in Oswego, about carrying her book. But she said she is mostly selling her book through her website, www.
|Fulton Woman Pens First of Three
Books on Her Ancestor