The hanging of Mary Dyer on the Boston gallows in 1660 marked the beginning of the end of the Puritan theocracy and New England independence from English rule. A year later King Charles explicitly forbade Massachusetts from executing anyone merely for professing Quakerism. In 1684 England would revoke the Massachusetts charter and two years later dispatch a royal governor to enforce English laws. Three years on it would pass a broad Toleration act, allowing freedom of worship for most dissenters from the Church of England, although not yet for Catholics. More broadly and profoundly, Dyer’s death—and the response it evoked—significantly advanced the fundamental principle that individual conscience, as the basis of religious belief, should not be governed or prosecuted by the state.
By all accounts, Mary Dyer was an extraordinary woman. She was well-educated, articulate, attractive, the wife of the Attorney General of Rhode Island, and a passionate and outspoken Quaker. But her origin and early life prior to her marriage to William Dyre are shrouded in mystery, rumor, myth, tradition, conjecture, and speculation.
This web site has been developed to share historical information about Mary Dyer and advance our knowledge of her life. To that end, the interested reader might turn to the Research Focus pages and read some of what is known and unknown regarding Mary Barrett Dyer and William Dyre [Dyer, Dier, Dire, Deyer, Dyar].