This Day in the Law
June 1

Mary Dyer Hanged (1660)

On June 1, 1660, Mary Dyer was hanged for violating a law that banned Quakers from Boston, Massachusetts. She was one of four people, known as the Boston martyrs, who were hanged for violating the law.

Mary Dyer and her husband William were Puritans who lived in Boston, Massachusetts. After hearing the teachings of preacher Anne Hutchinson, they became involved in a splinter group of Puritans known as the Antinomian heretics. Boston was a theocracy, meaning that the religious officials were the heads of the government. When they heard of Hutchinson’s teachings, they banished her, as well as all those who followed her. Dyer and her husband traveled to England after their banishment, where they joined the Quakers, whose religious views were in line with the Antinomians. There, Dyer became a Quaker preacher.

After several years, Dyer returned to New England to preach Quakerism and to protest the law banning Quakers from the colony. She was arrested and released three times on the charge of being a Quaker. She narrowly escaped the death penalty one time because of her husband’s friendship with the governer. The final time she was arrested, she was sentenced to death. Dyer was given the chance to renounce her faith, but she refused. Mary Dyer was hanged on June 1, 1660 on the charge of being a Quaker in Massachusetts.

Today, Dyer and the other four Quakers who were hanged are hailed as martyrs. There is a statue in Dyer’s memory in front of the Massachusetts state capitol building in Boston.