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Drunkards, Fornicators, and a Great Hen Squabble: Censure Practices and the Gendering of Puritanism

  • Monica D. Fitzgerald

Extract

The chamber pot was still full. The Dewy family's servant had not yet completed her morning chore of emptying the chamber pot when she dumped it over the head of their next door neighbor, Goody Ingerson. The unexpected assault was retaliation for the murder of some of the Dewys' hens. In 1714, the Dewys owned over 120 chickens, and as their closest neighbor, Ingerson grew tired of the fowl running freely through the Ingersons' property. The Ingersons chased those chickens out of their garden, barn, barley field, and scurried the unwanted guests out of their house. So, to show her unhappiness, Goodwife Ingerson wrung a few necks. The contents of the chamber pot did not slow her down, as Ingerson sent her daughter home with two more dead hens. Tensions escalated and a small brawl almost erupted when Abigail Dewy ordered her chamber pot wielding servant to apprehend the young girl escaping with the dead poultry. The Ingersons' daughter escaped the servant's clutches before Dewy could mete out a flogging with her whipping cord. The Ingersons' daughter made it home safely (perhaps to a chicken dinner). The case of the great hen squabble went to court, where the Connecticut magistrates ordered the Ingersons to pay for the dead chickens. However, when the court asked Abigail Dewy if she ordered her servant to drag Ingerson's daughter by the hair to the Dewy house, she lied and said no. For that, the Westfield church censured her for the sin of lying.

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1 Taylor, Edward, Edward Taylor's “Church Records” and Related Sermons, vol. 1, The Unpublished Writings of Edward Taylor, ed. Davis, Thomas M. and Davis, Virginia L. (Boston: Twayne, 1981), 237–41.

2 Taylor, Church Records, 183–85.

3 See Selement, George, Keepers of the Vineyard: The Puritan Ministry and Collective Culture in Colonial New England (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984), 3. In his introduction Selement details that over one thousand pieces have been written about the Puritans since Perry Miller's seminal The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939). Perry explained New England through the minds and ideas of its elite theologians. For examples of historians who examine the ordinary or marginalized, see Hall, David D., Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989); Herndon, Ruth Wallis, Unwelcome Americans: Living in the Margins in Early New England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001).

4 Hall, David, “Narrating Puritanism,” in New Directions in American Religious History, ed. Stout, Harry S. and Hart, D. G. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 70. This study examines how this “lived religion” was also gendered.

5 Cotton, John, The Keyes to the Kingdom of Heaven (London: M. Simmons, 1644), B7.

6 Hooker, Thomas, A Survey of the Summe of Church-Discipline (London: Printed by A.M. for John Bellamy, 1648), 33.

7 For further explanation, see Hall, , The Faithful Shepherd: A History of the New England Ministry in the Seventeenth Century (Williamsburg, Va.: University of North Carolina Press, 1972), 9596.

8 Sewall, Samuel, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674–1729, ed. Thomas, M. Halsey (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973), 35, 4.

9 For a discussion of lay and ministerial power, see Adams, Nehemiah, The Autobiography of Thomas Shepard (Boston: Pierce and Parker, 1832); Hall, The Faithful Shepherd; Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment; Hall, ed., Lived Religion in America; Selement, Keepers of the Vineyard; Selement, George, “The Meeting of Elite and Popular Minds at Cambridge, New England, 1638–1645,” William and Mary Quarterly 41, no. 1 (January 1984): 3248.

10 See Taylor, Church Records, 215–25.

11 Dunnwell, James Frothington, ed., Records of the First Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, 1632–1789 (Boston: David Clapp and Son, 1880), xiixiii.

12 Hope, Charles, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, Massachusetts, 1636–1734. (Boston: George H. Ellis, 1981), 85.

13 See Cotton, The Keyes. This practice of lay voting power was unique to the Congregational churches of the Puritans. Presbyterians had elders and lay leaders meet privately to discuss and decide censure action.

14 Hall, Faithful Shepherd, 12.

15 Taylor, Church Records, 178–79.

16 Boston First Church, 1639. For a discussion about how this censure humiliated and disgraced him, see Bailyn, Bernard, ed., The Apologia of Robert Keayne: The Self-Portrait of a Puritan Merchant (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1964), viiviii.

17 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 86.

18 Boston Second Church, 1696.

19 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 112–14.

20 The Cambridge and Saybrook Platforms of Church Discipline, with the Confession of Faith of the New England Churches, adopted in 1680 (Boston: T.R. Marvin, 1829), 5455.

21 Taylor, Church Records, 174.

22 For a discussion of church discipline, see Adams, Charles Francis, Some Phases of Sexual Morality and Church Discipline in Colonial New England (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1891); Harris, Gerald, “The Beginnings of Church Discipline: 1 Corinthians 5,” New Testament Studies 37, no. 1 (January 1991): 121; Oberholzer, Emil Jr., Delinquent Saints: Disciplinary Action in the Early Congregational Churches of Massachusetts (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956); Wilberforce, Robert Isaac, Church Courts and Church Disciplines (London: John Murray, 1843).

23 For a discussion of the roots of church discipline in European Puritanism, see Burnett, Amy Nelson, “Church Discipline and Moral Reformation in the Thought of Martin Bucer,” Sixteenth Century Journal 22, no. 3 (Fall 1991): 439–56; and Wilberforce, Church Courts.

24 Forbes, Allyn Bailey, ed., Records of the Suffolk County Court 1671–1680, 2 vols. (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1933), 1:676.

25 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 79.

26 Forbes, ed., Records of the Suffolk County Court, 809–10. Edmund Morgan talks about this case as a way the courts attempted to protect husbands from temptations. See Morgan, , The Puritan Family: Essays on Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England (Boston: Trustees of the Public Library, 1944), 41. However, it should also be viewed as a method to protect wives from wayward husbands, and even to protect daughters. Waitstill Spur (who may have been underage) was never charged in court or church. Her father failed to protect her; Robert Spur failed in his duty to protect her and to respect the marriage covenant for Belcher and Minott. See also Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 79–81, 84.

27 Hall, The Faithful Shepherd, 1, 122; Daniels, Bruce C., The Connecticut Town: Growth and Development, 1635–1790 (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1979), 65; Bozeman, Theodore Dwight, The Precisianist Strain: Disciplinary Religion and Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 239–40; Erikson, Kai T., Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (New York: Wiley, 1966), 5558. Erikson describes the relationship between church and state that “magistrates would act as a secular arm in the service of the church . . . while the ministers would provide the final authority for most questions related to long-range policy.”

28 For a discussion of Puritan psychology, see Cohen, Charles Lloyd, God's Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); Erikson, Wayward Puritans. For a discussion on social controls, see Holifield, E. Brooks, “Peace, Conflict, and Ritual in Puritan Congregations,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 23, no. 3 (Winter 1993): 551–70; Mentzer, Raymond A., Sins and the Calvinists: Morals, Control, and the Consistory in the Reformed Tradition (Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth-Century Journal Publishers, 1994); Moran, Gerald F. and Vinovskis, Maris A., Religion, Family and the Life Course: Explorations in the Social History of Early America (New York: Harper & Row, 1992); and Nelson, William E., Dispute and Conflict Resolution in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, 1725–1825 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981).

29 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 87.

30 Reis, Elizabeth, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997), 4142.

31 Mack, Phyllis, Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 2526. See also Juster, Susan, Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics and Evangelicalism in Revolutionary New England (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994), 5.

32 Knox, John, “The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regime of Women,” quoted in Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco: Harper Row, 1980), 145.

33 Merchant, The Death of Nature, 146.

34 Thomas Shepard, The Sound Believer, quoted in Mack, Visionary Women, 19.

35 Historians of early American religion have called attention to the disjuncture between lay–cleric belief systems in the scholarship over the last fifteen years, such as Hall, Worlds of Wonder; Cohen, God's Caress; and Butler, Jon, Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990). Countering this recent historiography, and asserting that the laity agreed with their minister, is Selement, George, “The Meeting of Elite and Popular Minds at Cambridge, New England, 1638–1645,” William and Mary Quarterly 41, no. 1 (January 1984): 3248. Selement's article is instructive in the influence Shepard had over the newly admitted members to his congregation. This study needs to be sensitive to the level of influence ministers had over confessions and censures within their parishes.

36 Porterfield, Amanda, Female Piety in Puritan New England: The Emergence of Religious Humanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 7.

37 Tuner, Victor, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Chicago: Aldine, 1969), 166203; Bynum, Caroline Walker, “Women's Stories, Women's Symbols: A Critique of Victor Turner's Theory of Liminality,” chapter 1 in Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Zone, 1991), 29, 32, 35, 37–40.

38 Pierce, Richard D., ed., The Records of the First Church of Salem, Massachusetts, 1629–1736 (Salem: Essex Institute, 1974), 122.

39 See Reiss, Damned Women, 39, 101.

40 William Brattle, Sermons Delivered in Cambridge, ms., William Brattle II, Misc. Volume, Massachusetts Historical Society.

41 John Oxenbridge, Conversion of the Gentiles, ms., Msc. SBd–56, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1690.

42 Godbeer, Richard, Sexual Revolution in Early America (Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins University Press, 2002).

43 Stanford, Donald E., ed., The Poems of Edward Taylor (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1963), 142, 164, 212, 230, 248, 259, 295, 362–63, 448; John Cotton, Christ the Fountain of Life, 36–37; and Cotton, Practical Commentary, 131; quoted in Godbeer, Sexual Revolution in Early America, 54.

44 Porterfield, Female Piety in Puritan New England, 66.

45 See Reis, Damned Women; Willen, Diane, “Godly Women in Early Modern England: Puritanism and Gender,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 43, no. 4 (October 1992): 561–81; Westerkamp, Marilyn J., “Engendering Puritan Religious Culture in Old and New England,” Pennsylvania History 64 (1997): 105–22.

46 Perkins, William, Works, quoted in Stephen Baskerville, “The Family in Puritan Political Theology,” The Journal of Family History 18, no. 2 (1993): 161.

47 John Rogers, Death the Certain Wages of Sin, quoted in Godbeer, Sexual Revolution in Early America, 68. For a discussion of the body/soul and feminized soul, see Reis, Damned Women, 93–120; and Westerkamp, “Engendering Puritan Religious Culture,” 105–22.

48 Kamensky, Jane, Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 5.

49 Kamensky, Governing the Tongue, 158, 74, 77; and Wadsworth, Benjamin, The Well-Ordered Family: Or, Relative Duties (Boston, 1712), cited in Kamensky, Governing the Tongue, 77.

50 See Kamensky, Governing the Tongue, 17–42.

51 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 71.

52 Joseph Sewall, Papers 1703–1716, ms., Joseph Sewall Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

53 Adams, Nehemiah, The Autobiography of Thomas Shepard (Boston: Pierce and Parker, 1832), 73.

54 Morgan, Edmund S., ed., The Diary of Michael Wigglesworth, 1653–1657 (New York: Harper & Row, 1946), 53.

55 Brattle, Sermons folder.

56 Emerson, Everett H., ed., Gods Mercie Mixed with his Justice; or His Peoples Deliverance in Times o Danger by John Cotton, 1641 (Gainesville, Fla.: Scholars Facsimile Reprints, 1977), 25.

57 Emerson, ed., Gods Mercie, 40–42.

58 See Reis, Damned Women, 93–120; Cohen also discusses the popularity of the topic of the separation of the body and soul in Puritan theology, God's Caress, 40.

59 Sewall, Samuel, The Diary of Samuel Sewall, 1674–1729, 2 vols., ed. Thomas, M. Halsey (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1973), 1:38–42.

60 Clap, Captain Roger, Memoirs of Captain Roger Clap (Boston: Greenleaf's Printing Office for Samuel Whiting, 1731), 13.

61 Relation Experience, ms., Collection of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society. No date or name given.

62 See Morgan, The Puritan Family, 18–21; Demos, John, A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970); Norton, Mary Beth, Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Founding of Early American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996), 8; Brown, Kathleen M., Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 1319.

63 Wolcott, Roger, “A Brief Account of the Agency of the Honorable John Winthrop, Esq. In the Court of King Charles the Second, Annon Dom. 1662,” MHS Collections 4 (1795), 267; and Morton, Thomas, The New English Canaan (Boston, 1883), cited in Godbeer, Sexual Revolution in Early America, 154–55.

64 Taylor, Church Records, 183.

65 Gustafson, Sandra, Eloquence is Power Oratory and Performance in Early America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000), xvii, 16.

66 For a description of “verbal order,” see Gustafson, Eloquence is Power, 25.

67 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 79.

68 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 80.

69 Mather, Cotton, Ratio Discipline Fratrum Nov-Anglicorum (Boston, 1726), 144, cited in Oberholzer, Emil, Delinquent Saints: Disciplinary Action in Early Congregational Churches of Massachusetts (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956), 30. Oberholzer confirmed that “the sincerity of the penitent must be outwardly manifest.”

70 For information about New England childbirth practices, see Wertz, Richard W. and Wertz, Dorothy C., Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America (New York: The Free Press, 1977); Scholten, Catherine M., Childbearing in American Society: 1650–1850 (New York: New York University, 1985); Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785–1812 (New York: Vintage, 1990).

71 See Taylor, Church Records, 219. Taylor called Rachel “Rebecca,” who also conceived a child early, but in 1713. It was Rachel who fornicated with John Madsley, as court documents proved. Rebecca had a child in May 1713, and married Samuel Dewey in 1714. So, likely this is Rachel's confession. The court found John Madsley, who denied fathering the baby, guilty, and ordered him to pay child support. See footnotes for editor's comments.

72 For a description of the experiences of Puritan religious cycles of conversion, confession, grace, sin, redemption, and so on, see Cohen, God's Caress, 5, 76, 119.

73 Records of the First Church of Salisbury, ms., Massachusetts Historical Society, 1699–1702.

74 Dunnewell, James Frothingham, ed., Records of the First Church in Charlestown, 1632–1789 (Boston: David Clapp and Son, 1880), iii.

75 Dunnewell, ed., Records of the First Church in Charlestown, 1632–1789, ix–x.

76 Taylor, Church Records, 185–87.

77 For a further discussion of men noting their particular sin and not their sinful natures, see Reis, Damned Women, 12–54; and Godbeer, Richard, “‘The Cry of Sodom’: Discourse, Intercourse, and Desire in Colonial New England,” William and Mary Quarterly 52, no. 2 (April 1995): 259–86.

78 Hope, ed. Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 112, 51, 69.

79 Records of the Second Church of Boston, Massachusetts Historical Society, m.s., Volume 3, 1672.

80 Quoted in Mack, Visionary Woman, 31.

81 Records of the Second Church of Boston, 1699.

82 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 91, 96.

83 Forbes, ed., Records of the Suffolk County Court, 957.

84 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 96.

85 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 75, 80, 81; Forbes, ed., Records of the Suffolk County Court, 846, 940.

86 For examples, see Hope, ed., Dorchester First Church; and Boston Second Church.

87 Plymouth Church Records, 1620–1859 (New York: John Wilson & Son, 1920), 97.

88 Taylor, Church Records, 211.

89 Plymouth Church Records, 237.

90 Boston Second Church Records, 1706.

91 Boston Second Church Records, 1685.

92 See Elizabeth Healy, “Confession on Paternity” (Folio 2. Misc. 1667–1669: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1667).

93 For a discussion of female piety, see Westerkamp, Marilyn, Women and Religion in Early America, 1600–1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Reis, Damned Women; Ann Braude, “Women's History Is American Religious History,” in Retelling U.S. Religious History, ed. Thomas A. Tweed (Berkeley: University of California Press), 87–107; Porterfield, Female Piety in Puritan New England. All agree that piety elevated women. Porterfield asserts that men found spiritual satisfaction in female piety. This article expands upon Porterfield's argument by suggesting that ministers embraced female piety and in private journals some men adopted such piety, yet publicly laymen chose to express their religiosity through Puritan duty and a more masculine language. Ann Braude contends that the ideals of masculinity were in conflict with the Christian values of piety, 104.

94 For a discussion on some of the social dimensions of church membership, see Anne Speerschneider Brown, “‘Bound Up in a Bundle of Life’: The Social Meaning of Religious Practice in Northeastern Massachusetts, 1700–1776” (Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1995).

95 Pierce, ed., Records of the First Church of Salem, 247.

96 The range indicates those women whose marital status is unclear.

97 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 137.

98 Taylor, Church Records, 205–6.

99 Plymouth Church Records, 197.

100 For a discussion of family, see Demos, A Little Commonwealth; Greven, Philip, The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Child-Rearing, Religious Experience, and the Self in Early America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977); Norton, Founding Mothers and Fathers; Stone, Lawrence, The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500–1800 (New York: Harper & Row, 1977).

101 Stoughton, John, Windsor Farmes: A Glimpse of an Old Parish (Hartford: Clark & Smith Book and Job Printers, 1883), 8283.

102 No records in church or court charge Peter Woods.

103 Mary Quinsey, Confession of Faith 1712/13, ms., Quincy Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

104 For a discussion of verbal forms, see Gustafson, Eloquence is Power, xvi, 32.

105 Bercovitch, Sacvan, The Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975), 1011.

106 Bozeman, Precisianist Strain, 106.

107 Erikson, Wayward Puritans, 53.

108 See Dayton, Cornelia Hughes, “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village,” William and Mary Quarterly 48, no. 1 (January 1991), 1949.

109 See Dayton, Cornelia Hughes, Women Before the Bar: Gender, Law, and Society in Connecticut, 1639–1789 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 9.

110 Dayton, Women Before the Bar, 9–13.

111 Stoughton, Windsor Farmes, 71–72.

112 Middlekauf, Robert, The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596–1728 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 230.

113 Mather, Cotton, Magnalia Christi Americana, or The Ecclesiastical History of New England, 2 vols. (Hartford: Silus and Son, 1853–1855), 655.

114 Mather, Samuel, Discourse Concerning the Difficulty and Necessity of Renouncing our Own Righteousness (Boston: J. Draper, 1698), 8, 48.

115 Braude, “Women's History Is American Religious History,” 93–96.

116 Lindenauer, Leslie, Piety and Power: Gender and Religious Culture in the American Colonies, 1630–1700 (New York: Routledge, 2002), xvi.

117 Hope, ed., Records of the First Church of Dorchester, 27, 29, 231.

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