Several factors played a part as to why Mary Rowlandson endured her captivity. One factor was that she had good housewife skills. Her status in the English community was also a factor. Pure luck is always a factor in a situation such as hers. But, the single most important factor was her religion. Facing one of the most adverse times in her life, Mary never lost her faith in God.
Her housewife skills made her useful to the Indians. She was asked to knit clothes for them. She knitted caps, shirts and socks for the Indians, as well as fix clothes that were either too big or that were torn. The Indians also had her help in gathering food such as corn, groundnuts and water. When the Indians decided to remove themselves from one location and move to another, they had Mary help them carry some of their belongings on her back.
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Mary’s status also affected her captivity. Due to the fact that she was married to the minister of Lancaster, Joseph Rowlandson, she had a higher status than most in her community. Being a minister, Joseph achieved elite status in Lancaster. He was addressed as “mister”. “In status-conscience England and its’ colonies, “mister” was reserved for men of authority and learning such as magistrates, ministers, military officers, and the very wealthy merchants.” Mary was addressed “mistress”; in fact, she was the only woman of her town to be addressed in this manner, due to her being the wife of the minister. This status made her very valuable to the Indians. They could use Mary as collateral to bargain with the Englishmen to acquire food, supplies, possibly even land.
During the first few days of captivity, Mary and her daughter were still suffering from the wounds that the Indians inflicted during the attack of Lancaster as well as being spiritually wounded. Her daughter, the Babe, was extremely sick with a violent fever that was caused by a lack of food, water, shelter and her wounds. They were forced to sleep outside in the snow. Mary credits the Lord for allowing them to awake in the mornings.
Babe was closely encroaching death a bit more as each day passed. Mary continued quoting passages from the Bible to maintain her spirit. On the ninth day of their captivity, Babe passed away. She was only six years old. Mary was contemplating suicide, but she turned to God to help her persevere through this tragic moment.
During the third removal, some of the Indians returned from an assault on the town of Medford. One of them approached Mary. He offered her a Bible. She was delighted as well as weary that the other Indians would not allow her to keep it. Mary immediately began reading; this was very comforting to her. This would be her strength, which would allow her to overcome the adversities that lay ahead of her.
As Mary and the Indians began the fifth remove, they encountered the Bacquag River, which had to be crossed. Mary made it across the river without getting wet. “This was a favour from God”, Mary stated. She quoted Isai.43.2: “When thou passeth through the water I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.”
One day, during the thirteenth remove, Mary inquired about her son, who was also a captive of the Indians. One Indian responded to Mary by telling her that they killed, roasted and ate her son. He went on by saying that he personally ate two of his fingers. Mary turned to The Lord for support; she then realized that the Indian was lying to her and that she could not believe any of them.
During the seventeenth remove, Mary was extremely weak due to having no food to replenish her body. Her spirit was also very low. She quoted David from Psalm 119: “I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down like the locusts; my knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh faileth of fatness.” Later that night, God answered Mary. There was an Indian who offered her broth from the horses’ feet that he was boiling, as well as some of the horses’ guts. Mary accepted the offerings and broiled the guts on the coals of the fire. After she ate, Mary felt replenished and her spirit was uplifted. She quoted 1SAM.14.29: “Jonathon, See, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened because I tasted a little of this honey.”
Although Mary Rowlandsons’ status and her knitting skills compelled the Indians not to kill her, it was her faith in God that enabled her to endure and overcome her captivity.
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