the Book

whip & cart women

Vagabond Quakers is an historical fiction based on a true incident that happened in Dover, NH in December of 1662. More broadly it is about the persecutions inflicted on the Society of Friends by the Puritan authorities that dominated New England.
At the time this novel starts Boston had recently hung four Quakers, three men and one woman, Mary Dyer, whose statue stands before the State House in that city with the inscription “My life availeth me nothing without the Liberty of the Truth.”
Her life in itself is an amazing story. But it has been written by others. She is a motivating force in Vagabond Quakers. She is the inspiration for my protagonists, Mary Tomkins and Alice Ambrose.
Mary and Alice were real people, documented in history as the women who were condemned to the Whip and Cart Act by Richard Walderne, Magistrate of Dover in December of 1662. Many historians have chronicled the incident, most probably because of the extreme cruelty of the sentence – a virtual death by whipping through eleven towns from Dover to Dedham (it was all Massachusetts then) at the back of an ox cart, 10 stripes in each town and, remember, it was December with snow “half the leg deep.” But no one has written a novel about the women who endured the incident, how they became Quakers, where and how they grew up, how they trained in order to qualify to be sent to New England, what they did when they first got there (documented June 1662) and how the incident fell out (December 1662).
What they were doing all that summer and fall after their arrival, who they met, where they went is all up to supposition. The facts are the skeleton and the fictionalized account adds muscle, blood and skin creating a story to which the reader can relate.
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem about the incident called “How the Women Went from Dover.” It is in a following post, and although highly romanticized, it is an interesting and entertaining piece. It is the closest attempt to tell the story of these remarkable women.
I appreciate any feedback concerning this project, should it interest you.


3 thoughts on “the Book

  1. vagabondquakers

    Here is the poem by John Greenleaf Whittier

    How the Women Went from Dover

    The following is a copy of the warrant issued by Major Waldron, of Dover, in 1662. The Quakers, as was their wont, prophesied against him, and saw, as they supposed, the fulfilment of their prophecy when, many years after, he was killed by the Indians.

    To the constables of Dover, Hampton, Salisbury, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, Wenham, Lynn, Boston, Roxbury, Dedham, and until these vagabond Quakers are carried out of this jurisdiction. You, and every one of you, are required, in the King’s Majesty’s name, to take these vagabond Quakers, Anne Colman, Mary Tomkins, and Alice> Ambrose, and make them fast to the cart’s tail, and driving the cart through your several towns, to whip them upon their naked backs not exceeding ten stripes apiece on each of them, in each town; and so to convey them from constable to constable till they are out of this jurisdiction, as you will answer it at your peril; and this shall be your warrant.
    Dated at Dover, December 22, 1662.

    This warrant was executed only in Dover and Hampton. At Salisbury the constable refused to obey it. He was sustained by the town’s people, who were under the influence of Major Robert Pike, the leading man in the lower valley of the Merrimac, who stood far in advance of his time, as an advocate of religious freedom, and an opponent of ecclesiastical authority. He had the moral courage to address an able and manly letter to the court at Salem, remonstrating against the witchcraft trials.

    THE tossing spray of Cocheco’s fall
    Hardened to ice on its rocky wall,
    As through Dover town in the chill, gray dawn,
    Three women passed, at the cart-tail drawn!

    Bared to the waist, for the north wind’s grip
    And keener sting of the constable’s whip,
    The blood that followed each hissing blow
    Froze as it sprinkled the winter snow.

    Priest and ruler, boy and maid
    Followed the dismal cavalcade;
    And from door and window, open thrown,
    Looked and wondered gaffer and crone.

    “God is our witness,” the victims cried,
    We suffer for Him who for all men died;
    The wrong ye do has been done before,
    We bear the stripes that the Master bore!

    And thou, O Richard Waldron, for whom
    We hear the feet of a coming doom,
    On thy cruel heart and thy hand of wrong
    Vengeance is sure, though it tarry long.

    “In the light of the Lord, a flame we see
    Climb and kindle a proud roof-tree;
    And beneath it an old man lying dead,
    With stains of blood on his hoary head.”

    “Smite, Goodman Hate-Evil!–harder still!”
    The magistrate cried, “lay on with a will!
    Drive out of their bodies the Father of Lies,
    Who through them preaches and prophesies!”

    So into the forest they held their way,
    By winding river and frost-rimmed bay,
    Over wind-swept hills that felt the beat
    Of the winter sea at their icy feet.

    The Indian hunter, searching his traps,
    Peered stealthily through the forest gaps;
    And the outlying settler shook his head,–
    “They’re witches going to jail,” he said.

    At last a meeting-house came in view;
    A blast on his horn the constable blew;
    And the boys of Hampton cried up and down,
    “The Quakers have come!” to the wondering town.

    From barn and woodpile the goodman came;
    The goodwife quitted her quilting frame,
    With her child at her breast; and, hobbling slow,
    The grandam followed to see the show.

    Once more the torturing whip was swung,
    Once more keen lashes the bare flesh stung.
    “Oh, spare! they are bleeding!”‘ a little maid cried,
    And covered her face the sight to hide.

    A murmur ran round the crowd: “Good folks,”
    Quoth the constable, busy counting the strokes,
    “No pity to wretches like these is due,
    They have beaten the gospel black and blue!”

    Then a pallid woman, in wild-eyed fear,
    With her wooden noggin of milk drew near.
    “Drink, poor hearts!” a rude hand smote
    Her draught away from a parching throat.

    “Take heed,” one whispered, “they’ll take your cow
    For fines, as they took your horse and plough,
    And the bed from under you.” “Even so,”
    She said; “they are cruel as death, I know.”

    Then on they passed, in the waning day,
    Through Seabrook woods, a weariful way;
    By great salt meadows and sand-hills bare,
    And glimpses of blue sea here and there.

    By the meeting-house in Salisbury town,
    The sufferers stood, in the red sundown,
    Bare for the lash! O pitying Night,
    Drop swift thy curtain and hide the sight.

    With shame in his eye and wrath on his lip
    The Salisbury constable dropped his whip.
    “This warrant means murder foul and red;
    Cursed is he who serves it,” he said.

    “Show me the order, and meanwhile strike
    A blow at your peril!” said Justice Pike.
    Of all the rulers the land possessed,
    Wisest and boldest was he and best.

    He scoffed at witchcraft; the priest he met
    As man meets man; his feet he set
    Beyond his dark age, standing upright,
    Soul-free, with his face to the morning light.

    He read the warrant: “These convey
    From our precincts; at every town on the way
    Give each ten lashes.” “God judge the brute!
    I tread his order under my foot!

    “Cut loose these poor ones and let them go;
    Come what will of it, all men shall know
    No warrant is good, though backed by the Crown,
    For whipping women in Salisbury town!”

    The hearts of the villagers, half released
    From creed of terror and rule of priest,
    By a primal instinct owned the right
    Of human pity in law’s despite.

    For ruth and chivalry only slept,
    His Saxon manhood the yeoman kept;
    Quicker or slower, the same blood ran
    In the Cavalier and the Puritan.

    The Quakers sank on their knees in praise
    And thanks. A last, low sunset blaze
    Flashed out from under a cloud, and shed
    A golden glory on each bowed head.

    The tale is one of an evil time,
    When souls were fettered and thought was crime,
    And heresy’s whisper above its breath
    Meant shameful scourging and bonds and death!

    What marvel, that hunted and sorely tried,
    Even woman rebuked and prophesied,
    And soft words rarely answered back
    The grim persuasion of whip and rack.

    If her cry from the whipping-post and jail
    Pierced sharp as the Kenite’s driven nail,
    O woman, at ease in these happier days,
    Forbear to judge of thy sister’s ways!

    How much thy beautiful life may owe
    To her faith and courage thou canst not know,
    Nor how from the paths of thy calm retreat
    She smoothed the thorns with her bleeding feet.

    1. vagabondquakers Post author

      Hello Amy,
      I’m so glad you “stumbled” onto the blog for Vagabond Quakers. Am also glad you are researching Elizabeth Hooten, as there is so much about her in the same period, that I elected not to any more than mention her in passing. But she has quite a story! They all endured so much for their beliefs – all to our eventual benefit!
      Good luck to you, too and keep me posted!


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