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Execution at Boston Common - Summary

Mary Dyer is the first woman executed in America. She is hanged from the great elm tree at Boston Common because she chooses to practice her personal religious beliefs. The Puritans view Mary Dyer as a heretic, and feel that she deserves her punishment. Mary Dyer’s belief that God speaks directly to those who trust him is one of the first acts of civil disobedience in America. As a result of her death, the right to worship as one wishes becomes part of the American constitution. 

Mary Dyer is an unhappy member of Puritan society. The Puritans leave England in search of religious freedom, but have no tolerance for the religious views of others. One Puritan leader who is critical of these views is Roger Williams. He takes a stand against religious intolerance, and is banished as a result. Anne Hutchinson is a midwife turned preacher who opposes the Puritan ways. As an outspoken woman in a male-dominated society, she stands accused of not conforming to the Puritan beliefs and is banished along with her family. Mary Dyer joins Hutchinson in defying the Puritan ways and joins Roger Williams in Rhode Island, where tolerance and diversity are preached. 

Even though Dyer and her family are able to worship as they wish in Rhode Island, they choose to take a return trip to England. This trip changes Mary’s life, and ultimately leads to her death. During this trip, Mary Dyer meets George Fox, who has founded the Quakers. Since they share similar views, Dyer joins the Quaker religion. The Puritans persecute the Quakers, and Dyer soon finds herself facing death for protesting the anti-Quaker laws. Dyer’s husband begs for her life, and Mary is set free, but she continues to oppose the laws against the Quaker religion. 

Upon returning to Boston, Dyer is again arrested and sentenced to hang for protesting the harsh laws against the Quakers. The colony leaders, and even her own pastor urge her to repent, but Mary Dyer stands strong. She is hanged and buried in an unmarked grave. Mary Dyer does not die in vain, however. Her death leads to protests against the anti-Quaker laws, and the colony leaders stop the executions of the Quakers. 

Although the Puritans have sought religious freedom, they have little tolerance for views that differ from their own. The Puritan rule of Massachusetts lasts only 60 years. By escaping the religious intolerance of England, the Puritans create a world where they deny others what they have gained for themselves. Today the area where Hutchinson and Dyer are banished honors both women with statues. Thanks to the efforts of these rebels, religious freedom is now a part of American law. 

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 1999

Updated Last Revision: Nov 09, 2016


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Execution at Boston Common" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 1999. Nov 19, 2019.
       <http://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/135400/Summary>.
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