The Increase Mather Effect

An analysis of the publication history of Mary Rowlandson’s A True History of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.

This paper examines how Mary White Rowlandson?s A True History of the Captivity and The Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson has garnered much attention from modern critics. It looks at how, traditionally, critics have viewed Rowlandson?s narrative as a religious explanation of her experience and how Rowlandson used her ordeal to confirm her election by God and the importance of adhering strictly to Puritan orthodoxy. It also examines how new evidence suggests that Rowlandson?s language was shaped by the involvement of Puritan leaders in the publication of the narrative, including the involvement of the influential minister, Increase Mather.
Scholars have long believed that Increase Mather, minister of the Second Church of Boston and an important political leader in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, encouraged Rowlandson to publish her account. There is a direct link between Increase Mather and Joseph Rowlandson. While Mary was in captivity, Joseph made a personal appeal to Mather to have the War Council negotiate for the release of Rowlandson and her children. In 1681, Mather undertook a project with a group of ministers to collect works that showed the special providences of God. Recent evidence uncovered showed that Mather received Rowlandson’s work, and he decided to publish it independently of his own book A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New-England.