Observing Women’s History Month and Honoring One of America’s First Women Immigrants




Just 30 years ago in 1987, the United States Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in perpetuity.  This action came eights years after Molly Murphy MacGregor, a member of The National Women’s History Projectwas invited to participate in The Women’s History Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, which was chaired by noted historian, Gerda Lerner, and attended by the national leaders of organizations for women and girls. You see, an formal history of notable women and their accomplishments was virtually an unknown and undocumented.  It wasn’t until 1978 when the “Education Task Force of Sonoma County California Commission on the Status of Women” initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration.  When others learned of Sonoma County’s celebratory success, similar celebrations materialized throughout the United States and a national effort surfaced to secure a “National Women’s History Week,” from which the National Women’s History Month got its roots.  The sitting President now issues an annual  Proclamation to honor extraordinary achievements of American women.  This year’s theme  “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business.” Thirteen women from diverse backgrounds, with different fields of endeavor, and spanning three centuries make up this year’s honorees.

“Anne Hutchinson Banished, March 22, 1638”The following Article was written by staff of Boston’s “Mass Moments” Program, funded by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities:

On This Day...

      …in 1638, Anne Hutchinson was expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Three years after arriving in Boston, she found herself the first female defendant in a Massachusetts court. When she held prayer meetings attended by both men and women, the authorities were alarmed; but what really disturbed them was her criticism of the colony’s ministers and her assertion that a person could know God’s will directly. Put on trial for heresy, she defended herself brilliantly. But her claim to have had a revelation from God sealed her fate. She was banished from the colony. Along with her family and 60 followers, she moved to Rhode Island, and later to New York, where she perished in an Indian raid.

Anne and William Hutchinson and their 15 children were among the 200 passengers who arrived in Boston aboard the Griffen in the fall of 1634. The couple had followed their minister, the Reverend John Cotton, to be part of a new community where they would be able to practice their faith openly.

A successful merchant in England, William Hutchinson had the resources to buy a house in Boston and a 600-acre farm. The Hutchinsons were respected gentry by the standards of early Massachusetts, and they quickly assumed a prominent place in Boston affairs.

But within three years, Anne Hutchinson would stand before a Massachusetts court, charged with heresy and sedition. In 1638 she would be excommunicated from the church and banished from the colony for holding and teaching unorthodox religious views.

Anne’s father was an outspoken English clergyman. Sentenced to house arrest for being publicly critical of the established church, he turned his prodigious intellectual energies to educating his children. Anne inherited her father’s intellect and strong religious beliefs. With the benefit of his library and his careful tutelage, she received a better education than most men of her day.

At the age of 21 she married and took on the traditional role of housewife and mother. She bore 15 children and learned midwifery, a skill that entitled a woman to special respect and esteem. She also maintained her interest in theology. She and her husband became devoted followers of the Puritan preacher John Cotton. At a time when Puritans could not worship freely in England, they chose to follow the Reverend Cotton when he emigrated to Boston in 1633.

At first Anne received a warm welcome. Bostonians appreciated her skill as a midwife; when she began to hold prayer meetings for women in her home, she seemed the very model of Puritan womanhood. John Cotton later remembered that “[a]t her first coming she was well respected and esteemed. . . . I hear she did much good in our Town, in womans meeting [and] at Childbirth-Travels.”

But her prayer meetings soon began to cause concern among the Puritan magistrates. An eloquent speaker, she began to draw large gatherings of women and men. The magistrates believed it highly inappropriate for a woman to instruct men, especially in religious matters. The laws of Massachusetts Bay were based on biblical teachings, and the colony’s leaders took seriously Paul’s commandment that women be silent in public meetings. But Anne Hutchinson’s supporters insisted that her meetings were private gatherings.

The real trouble began when word spread that she was criticizing the teachings of the Puritan ministers. She found the ministers, except for John Cotton, lacking in the spirit of God. Concerned about maintaining order in their new community, the ministers in Boston preached that people must live according to biblical precepts, thus demonstrating good works and upholding the moral order. Anne Hutchinson embraced the idea that salvation came about only when God granted it; she believed that human will and action played no role in salvation.

Her unorthodox views did not end there. She suggested that an individual could know God’s will directly, and that some people received revelation directly from God. This threatened the ministers’ role as interpreters of the Bible. As Hutchinson’s following grew, the magistrates decided that she was a dangerous woman who must be stopped. They charged her with sedition for undermining the authority of the ministers and heresy for expressing religious beliefs at odds with those of the colony’s religious leaders.

Her trial was extraordinary. Much of the testimony concerned the “crime” she had committed by daring, as a woman, to speak and teach men in public. Governor John Winthrop condemned her meetings as a “thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex.” He conducted much of the initial examination himself.

She boldly answered each of his questions with challenging questions of her own. He responded angrily: “You have rather been a Husband than a Wife and a preacher than a Hearer; and a Magistrate than a subject.” Her chief crime was usurping male authority.

Winthrop challenged her authority to speak, and she defended herself in biblical terms. He claimed that she had defamed the ministers by accusing them of preaching a covenant of works and not being able ministers of the New Testament. She retorted, “Prove that I said so,” and would acknowledge only using the words of the Apostles.

Anne mounted a skillful defense, but her intelligence and eloquence rankled the magistrates, who resented her lecturing them. Winthrop described her as “a woman of haughty and fierce carriage, a nimble wit and active spirit, a very voluble tongue, more bold than a man.” After two days of intense questioning, the magistrates had still not found a way to silence her.

Then Anne Hutchinson essentially convicted herself. She declared that her knowledge of the truth came as direct revelation from God, a heresy in Puritan Massachusetts. The astonished magistrates leapt upon what they considered a false teaching and proclaimed her guilt: “Mrs. Hutchinson, the sentence of the court you hear is that you are banished from out of our jurisdiction as being a woman not fit for our society, and are to be imprisoned till the court shall send you away.”

Hutchinson refused to recant and accepted her exile. In the spring of 1638 she and her family left Massachusetts Bay for the more tolerant Providence Plantation founded by Roger Williams. After her husband died, she moved to New Amsterdam. There, in 1643, she and five of her children were killed in an Indian raid. John Winthrop viewed her violent death as a sign of God’s final judgment on her blasphemy.

In 1922 a statue of Hutchinson was erected on the grounds of the Massachusetts State House. In 1945 the legislature voted to revoke her banishment. Today Anne Hutchinson is remembered as an advocate of freedom of religion and of women’s rights. Although in reality she was neither, she was a brave and principled woman who had the courage to speak her mind in a society that allowed women no public voice.


American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Women Who Defied the Puritans, by Eve LaPlante (Harper Collins, 2004).

Anne Hutchinson: Brief Life of Harvard’s ‘Midwife,'” by Peter Gomes, Harvard Magazine (November/December, 2002).

Boston Globe, Interview with Eve LaPlante, “Heretic, or Centuries Before her Time?” May 8, 2004.

Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England, by Jane Kamensky (Oxford University Press, 1997).

Brown’s Indian Queen Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue – Ghosts of DC

Ghosts of D.C. often posts images and backstories about pastimes of people and places in our Nation’s Capital, the District of Columbia.  It’s story this time is about an 1800’s Hotel that hosted many famous events and people and like our American culture fell upon hard times during the Great Depression and in 1935 became another thing in our history that no longer exists.


Expect the Unexpected — John Rolfe Was Here, Too!

Where Are We?

Where’s the Dickinson’s

We are about 1,500 miles away from home in the Caribbean on the West Indies Island known as Hispaniola–the second largest island in the Caribbean within the Greater Antilles.  It occupies an area of 29,418 square miles. Haiti occupies the western third of the Hispaniola island and the remaining eastern two-thirds make up the Dominican Republic. During the Age of Discovery (15th-18th centuries), Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola on December 5, 1492 and named it La Isla Española, “The Spanish Island,” which was eventually Anglicized to Hispaniola. It is said that when he first laid eyes on its shores, he termed it “La Perle des Antilles” or “the Pearl of the Caribbean.”  Because of this widespread European discovery and exploration movement, New World and 


Old World products were exchanged. This brought horses, cows, and sheep from Europe to the New World and tobacco, cotton, potatoes, and corn to the Old World.

We arrived here on Sunday, March 12, 2017, to celebrate our 52nd Wedding Anniversary (wedding date: March 27th).  On Monday, we met with travel advisors and oriented ourselves within the Dominican Republic’s Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & Spa Complex, where we stayed for five days.  The resort nestles within 79 acres of land surrounded by a coconut plantation with a variety of lush tropical vegetation. Its indigenous trees include mahogany, rosewood, satinwood, cypress, pine, oak, and cacao. All around us we see exquisite plants, bountiful tropical fruits, and spices including rice, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, yam, banana, pineapple, mango, fig, grape, breadfruitm. , oregano, paprika, and many more.

Obviously, we’re not Dominican, have not lived in a Dominican neighborhood or spent a lot of time exploring the island, so we were quite surprised when we were introduced to this drink known as “Mama Juana”. Similar to the 19th Century American practice of selling cure-all elixirs in traveling medicine shows, in the 1950’s, Jesus Rodriguez invented Mama Juana with claims that it was an herbal medicine that apart from acting as an aphrodisiac could rid you of the flu, aid digestion and circulation, and cleanse the blood, liver and kidneys. It’s a concoction of rum, red wine and honey, soaked in tree bark and herbs. Some say this elixir tastes like Port or Amaro liqueur, but my tastebuds reacted to it much like they do when I have to take obnoxious cough syrup.  However, Mama Juana’s claim to fame is its promised sexual potency, which has given it a nickname of “liquid Viagra”.

You may know the common riddle joke, “why did the chicken cross the road.”  Well, as we taxied through the resort, we needed to stop and give the right-of-way to a pair of magnificent peacocks with their massive tails and iridescent shades blue, grey, and green coloring. They wanted to cross the road to get to the other side to graze among the fruits, nuts, worms and lizards.   As the story goes, and so befitting to our anniversary celebration this week, Peacocks are pure of heart.  They pair with a mate and are loyal and eternally faithful to their partners–I accepted this encounter as a good omen of things to come.

The most noteworthy mammal among the indigenous animals is the agouti, a rodent. Wild dogs, hogs, and Brahman cattle are abundant, as are many reptiles, notably snakes, lizards, and caimans. Waterfowl and pigeons are common birds.

But, What Has Any of This To Do With John Rolfe?

Maria, landowner, and some of her family in the background.

Quite surprisingly, it does and we will get to it.  But first, we explored the diverse Dominican countryside in an open-air safari-style truck during our guided tour excursion from Punta Cana where we ventured into the Anamuya Mountains.  There, we spent time on horseback, explored an old sugar plantation, tasted several fruits and vegetables, sucked on raw sugar cane, shelled coffee from its beans, drank freshly ground cocoa and fruit drinks, savored a typical buffet lunch, visited with a Dominican family, and relaxed on the white sands of Macao Beach.

And here’s where my 10th great grandfather, John Thomas Rolfe comes into this picture and became a part of our discussion within the cultural excursion in the Dominican Republic.  In 1612, just three years after John Rolfe, husband of Indian Princess Pocahontas arrived in Jamestown, Virginia–originally from Heacham, England–John Rolfe began the state’s tobacco industry from tobacco seeds that he got while on one of his trips to the West Indies. He exported the first shipment in 1614 and it became Virginia’s biggest cash crop.  When the new tobacco was sent to England, it proved immensely popular, helping to break the Spanish monopoly on tobacco and creating a stable economy for the new colony. By 1617, the colony was exporting 20,000 pounds of tobacco annually; that figure doubled the following year.

Tobacco became central to the state economy and to the new United States in the 1770s. It was glorified and celebrated with parades and tobacco queens. In tribute to the history of Virginia’s top cash crop, thousands of tiny tobacco leaves are carved into the ceiling of the State Capitol.

However, in the last 50 years, with the adverse medical findings, the world turned against smoking and against tobacco companies.  In 1998, the United States government reached a master settlement agreement with the big tobacco industry and has paid farmers not to grow tobacco since then.

You will learn more about the connection between John Rolfe, the Dominican Republic and earlier days of tobacco making from our demo here.  It features Alex, our safari tour guide, and a native Dominican who has been hand rolling cigars for 48 years.  In fact, we went on three excursions during our stay and all of our guides and drivers (Alex, Hamlet, Melo and Francisco) referred to us as family and treated us as such.  Our trip was truly enriched by them and their good humor, humility, respect, and knowledge sharing about The Dominican Republic, it’s peoples and cultures.

There were two more excursion features that I am compelled to include before finishing up this post.  The ZipLine Excursion.  Ziplining has been on my bucket list and it was through my God, my faith, and my fortitude (that I believe my grandmother Loretta instilled in me) that helped me embrace the challenge of climbing stairs to the 12 various zipline platforms there were as high as nearly 2,300 feet and 800 meters long at times (for a total of about two miles of ziplining), and my desire at age 70 to push myself out of my comfort zone to set an example for our younger family members that they can succeed at anything they want if they set their hearts and minds to it.  I also wanted to thank God for each new day of my life here on earth with all my family and friends.

Likewise, I’d like to thank all the Punta Cana and excursions  staff and especially the twenty+ young men who welcomed and pushed me off each of the 12 zip line platforms. I felt their kindnesses and cheers that helped me to succeed and complete the full course of nearly two miles and at heights as high as 2,296 feet over mountains, rivers, and forests.  I just knew at some point, though, along my journey I was going to take out at least one of them when coming into the finish line at each of the 12 platforms. Fortunately, for all of us we “hung in there,” for a successful completion and another great memory.



A Sunday Morning Visit With Me and “Mr. Church”

I’m branching out this morning–taking that little fork in the road, if you will.  This post still shares with you my feelings about my love of God, church, family, special moments, memories, and family histories.  However, in it, I also reveal my love for good music, a good book or a good movie; and, how I spend and appreciate my infrequent solitude that lets me remember back to times and emotions from earlier seasons in my life.

Yesterday was Saturday and my husband Bob is attending a weekend-long firefighters’ leadership seminar in Northern Montgomery County, MD.  So, after running errands I attended our church on Saturday night with my daughter and her family.  And, as always the music, message, and multitude of faithful friends and family filled my heart and spirit as together we worshipped.  This worship was deeply moving to me as one of the older hymns, “Blessed Assurance,” from 1873,  reminded me of my maternal grandmother, Loretta Ford–this hymn was one of her favorites and it was played at her wake.  In fact, grandma’s birthday is tomorrow, and had she lived until now, she would be 122 years old.  Loretta was an adventurer, a pioneering spirit, a fighter, a lover of life and of God. From her I got my confidence, initiative, inventiveness, and drive.  She continues to be my inspiration and not a day passes when I don’t realize that she is still here with me as my guardian angel. So, in the quiet of my home this sunny Sunday morning with only my loving Chihuahuas by my side, I decided to stay nestled in and curled up under my warm blankets to watch a good movie, without any interruption from the cold world outside just beyond my bedroom.

As I casually browsed the list of movies using my relatively new cordless Amazon TV fire stick,  I happened upon a thumbnail for a 2016 no-name, no-hype film called “Mr. Church,” with an image of an older and very pensive looking Eddie Murphy.  So it’s Sunday, I went to church last night, and no church-going for me this morning–and next I spot a movie with “church” in its title.  I tell you it was sheer providence.  So, why bother watching the movie’s trailer, or reading its reviews, when this film literally leapt from ten feet out off my TV screen and triggered my fingers to click the “watch” button on my TV remote.  

Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church

Eddie Murphy as Mr. Church

Now, I’m only a few moments in, and I realize that talented and absurdly funny man Eddie Murphy was giving us an inspired and new look at his first and flawless dramatic performance–one that we’ve never seen from him in his 30 years of producing and starring in comedic movies.  And a performance, that I hope will lead to many more like it.  So, if you’re looking for a pure story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother receive gifted services of a talented cook, “Mr. Henry Joseph Church,” as a six-month arrangement that instead spans 15 years and creates a family bond that lasts forever, this film is for you.  Its story’s overwhelming moments will choke you up with heartrending emotion and your tears quite likely will flow.  But conversely, the easy display of warmth and love within family relationships will grab you up and make you feel like you’re floating on air, or dancing on the ceiling.

If you’re interested in watching the full movie, it’s available for free, here on YouTube