This stone sculpture depicts the Quaker martyr Mary Dyer who was hung for her religious beliefs in June, 1660. The sculpture was ordered by a bill of the General Court of Massachusetts and was created by the well-known Quaker artist Sylvia Shaw Judson. It was dedicated in 1959 and stands at the corner of Beacon Street and Bowdoin Street in front of the Massachusetts State House.
In 1633 Mary Dyer and
her husband William were married in England. In 1635 the couple emigrated to Boston where they joined the
Church of Boston. Over
the latter half of the 1630’s Boston became increasingly divided over the
separation of church and state. Governor John Winthrop restricted the creation
of new churches and took it upon himself to make clerical appointments, whilst
punishing those who spoke up against these practices.
The prominent Englishman Henry Vane started an opposition party and eventually
was elected to governor, but ultimately was defeated by Winthrop and his
of Vane’s supporters was Anne Hutchinson, an outspoken critic of Winthrop and a
close friend of Mary Dyer.
As punishment for supporting the opposition, Winthrop ordered the exhumation of
Mary Dyer’s stillborn child, which was found to be grotesquely deformed. Winthrop and the other Boston leaders regarded the child’s deformities
as the result of Mary’s deformed spiritual beliefs, which allegedly ranged from dissolute living to supernatural communication.After the exhumation, the Dyers left for Rhode Island with other
persecuted individuals including Anne Hutchinson, who had been banished
from Massachusetts. In the early 1650’s the Dyers returned to England
where Mary joined the
Quaker church. Despite the continuing persecution of Quakers in
Massachusetts, the Dyers returned in 1657 and Mary began missionary work
on behalf of the Quaker church. She was immediately imprisoned and
subsequently expelled with the threat of execution if she returned. Mary risked execution by returning to Massachusetts in order to continue her missionary work on behalf of the Quakers. This time she was
sentenced to execution along with two other male Quakers.
At the begging of her son William the Governor granted Mary a reprieve, but once again expelled her from the colony. On her third and final return to Boston Mary was arrested and on June 1st, 1660 she was executed on the Boston Common.