Domestic Broils

Domestic Broils: Shakers, Antebellum Marriage, and the Narratives of Mary and Joseph Dyer

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Domestic Broils
    Book Description:

    In 1813, Joseph Dyer, his wife Mary, and their five children joined the Shaker community in Enfield, New Hampshire. Joseph quickly adapted to the Shaker way of life, but Mary chafed under its strictures and eventually left the community two years later. When the local elders and her husband refused to release the couple’s children to Mary, she embarked on what would become a fiftyyear campaign against the Shakers, beginning with the publication in 1818 of A Brief Statement of the Sufferings of Mary Dyer. The following year the Shakers countered by publishing Joseph’s A Compendious Narrative, a scathing attack on what the title page called “the character, disposition and conduct of Mary Dyer.” Reproduced here for the first time since their original publication, the Dyers’ dueling accounts of the breakup of their marriage form the core of Domestic Broils. In Mary’s telling, the deceptions of a cruel husband, backed by an unyielding Shaker hierarchy, destroyed what had once been a happy, productive family. Joseph’s narrative counters these claims by alleging that Mary abused her children, neglected her husband, and engaged in extramarital affairs. In her introduction to the volume, Elizabeth De Wolfe places the Dyers’ marital dispute in a broader historical context, drawing on their personal testimony to examine connected but conflicting views of marriage, family life, and Shakerism in the early republic. She also shows how the growing world of print facilitated the transformation of a private family quarrel into a public debate. Salacious, riveting, and immensely popular throughout New England, the Dyers’ narratives not only captured imaginations but also reflected public anxieties over rapid cultural change in antebellum America.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-016-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. 1-28)

    In August 1819, a desperate woman left a hurriedly scrawled note in attorney Mills Olcott’s kitchen. “If you should hear of my being confined among the Shakers,” Mary Dyer wrote, “I desire you would favor an afflicted female.” Mary had been troubled since 1815, when she abandoned the Shaker sect her entire family had joined just two years earlier. At one time, Mary thought she had found relief from the relentless labor of farming and a venue for her religious aspirations in Shakerism, a faith that allowed women to speak and preach of spiritual matters. But her dreams went unrealized...

  6. A Brief Statement of the sufferings of Mary Dyer, occasioned by the society called Shakers (1818)
    (pp. 29-62)
    Mary M. Dyer

    I, Mary Dyer, was lawfully married to Joseph Dyer, in the year 1799; We resided in Stewartstown, in the county of Coos, and State of Newhampshire. We lived quietly together eleven years, though there had been some disagreeables by my husband’s being unsteady, and given sometimes to intoxication. We had five children, and were in good circumstances. We were united in a hope of salvation, through Christ. We were of the Baptist profession; yet as there was no church established we stood single characters. The people thought it expedient there should be a church established in those parts. Accordingly, in...

  7. A Compendious Narrative, elucidating the character, disposition and conduct of Mary Dyer, from the time of her marriage, in 1799, till she left the society called Shakers, in 1815 (1819)
    (pp. 63-142)
    Joseph Dyer

    IT is with reluctance and deep regret that I now undertake to disclose to the public thatrefractory and imperious dispositionwhich MARY, my wife, retains; and that extraordinary inclination which she has ever manifested to rule and govern those with whom she had any concern; which is already sufficiently manifest to the candid, who have become personally acquainted with her, and her scandalous reports and false allegations against an innocent and benevolent people, who to my certain knowledge have ever treated her and my family with the greatest degree of beneficence, kindness and charity. Till recently I have been...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 143-156)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 157-160)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 161-162)