1959 July 9

Massachusetts Unveils Statue Honoring Mary Dyer, Executed for Being a Quaker in 1690


The state of Massachusetts on this day unveiled a statue honoring Mary Dyer, who had been executed on June 1, 1690 for being a Quaker. The statue stands in front of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

Contrary to what most Americans believe, religious tolerance was not a part of early American history. Mary Dyer was executed because the Massachusetts Bay Colony had banned Quakers, and she returned to affirm her religious faith.

Religious tolerance did not really develop until the 20th century, in large part because of civil liberties litigation over the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment of Religion Clause of the First Amendment. The most famous — or notorious — example of religious intolerance in Colonial America was the Salem Witch Hunt (June 10, 1692), which many Americans in the 1950s saw as the model for the anti-Communist witch hunt of the Cold War (see Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, January 22, 1953).

Read: Ruth Talbot Plimpton, Mary Dyer: Biography of a Rebel Quaker (2011)

Visit the Mary Dyer Memorial Statue on Boston” Freedom Trail:

Learn more about religious liberty at the First Amendment Center: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/category/religion

Learn more about the Quakers: Thomas D. Hamm, The Quakers in America (2003)

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