Our Victoria Genealogical Society Resource Centre has a sign posted that quotes Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: "Well behaved women rarely make history." Most of my female ancestors were frustratingly well behaved. They conformed to what society expected of them, married young and gave birth to a string of babies, looked after hearth and home, but were virtually absent in the histories of the towns in which they lived.
Herodias married (or at least co-habited) three times and gave birth to a string of babies, but unlike the other women in the community, she appears by name in a multitude of records. Separation and divorce were almost unheard of in this society and yet she did that twice. She was not one to remain silent and conform to what was expected of her. I like to think of her as a free-spirited woman far ahead of her time. Herodias was different.
I have represented Herodias in a small fibre art piece that I created in 2004 for my journal quilting group. In a black and white world, she was colourful. Her three relationships are represented by the three larger flowers - one upright for her one legal marriage and two drooping ones for her common-law relationships. If these flowers somewhat resemble the letter "A", it is perhaps appropriate. She was certainly criticized for these relationships outside of legal wedlock. The smaller flowers at the bottom represent her numerous descendants.
|Fibre Art representation of Herodias Long|
She started out in life with a very unusual given name. One has to wonder what her parents were thinking when they gave her this name when she was born in 1623. The only other woman with this name that comes to mind is Herodias in the Bible, and the connotations of that name are not positive. Sometimes she was called "Harwood", "Hored", "Hardwood", and "Odious". None of these have a very nice flavour either, and all were "different".
She first arrived in Weymouth, Massachusetts in the late 1630's as the teen-aged wife of John Hicks. Later court records would indicate that after her father died, Herodias had been sent to London where at the age of 13 or 14 she married John Hicks on 14 March 1637 at Saint Faith's, the underchapel of Saint Paul's. (Marriage at such a young age was different too as most women at the time married in their early to mid-20's.) Shortly thereafter, to her "great griefe", he moved her across the Atlantic to New England.
Herodias and John moved to Newport, Rhode Island by 1640. The relationship was a stormy one. John's last record in Newport was in 1645 where he was bound for 10 pounds to keep the peace for having beaten his wife "Harwood" Hicks. The cause of the rift between them may well have been her developing relationship with my 9th great-grandfather George Gardiner. Hicks moved with the couple's two young children to Long Island and it wasn't until he wished to remarry some 10 years later that he sought a divorce. He also apparently took the entire estate that Herodias had been left by her parents (which was probably in keeping with English law at the time that had any property of a wife become that of her husband).
|Document of divorce of Herodias and John Hicks|
Swearing later that it was only because she was ill-equipped to support herself, Herodias moved in with George Gardiner. It is probable that their first child Benoni was actually born while she was still living with Hicks.
George Gardiner was a respected citizen of Newport, a landowner and a freeman of the town, constable and senior sergeant for the town as well as being an ensign in the militia. The couple appeared before friends in about 1645 and declared (in the Quaker manner) that they were husband and wife. In this too, Herodias was different: living in predominantly Puritan New England, she was a Quaker.
In fact, she was a very enthusiastic Quaker. She was among those who went to Massachusetts Bay colony to challenge its anti-Quaker laws. Those laws said that any Quakers entering their territory would be whipped and, if they returned, they could be executed. (It always strikes me as very inconsistent that the Puritans who left England for religious freedom would deny that same freedom to others. Rhode Island was much more tolerant.) In 1658 she willingly walked over 50 miles from Newport to Massachusetts Bay "with a babe sucking at her breast" to stand up for her beliefs and was whipped 10 stripes by order of Governor Endicott. She didn't test the waters by returning to Massachusetts Bay after this episode.
She had a 21 year relationship with George Gardiner during which time at least 7 children were born, including my 8th great grandfather, another George Gardiner who was born in 1647. But this relationship also soured. According to Herodias, George refused to support her and their many children. She also claimed to have been having regrets about living with George without having gone through a proper form of marriage.
In the spring of 1665, Herodias petitioned for a separation from Gardiner. She called herself "Hored Long" and described her marital life from the time of her father's death in England. Her explanation of her years with Gardiner was that she had been forced to live with him to support herself and that she had repeatedly begged him to set her up in a separate house and "not to meddle with mee." This may be greeted with a certain amount of scepticism since she appears to have had a good deal of freedom to make her own decisions. Whether willing participant or innocent victim, when the General Assembly found that there had been no proper form of marriage between Herodias and George, it decreed that Gardiner cease to trouble her, that they pay a fine for living together without being married and then a new law was passed to prevent future occurrences of a similar nature.
HOWEVER, the true cause of her wish to free herself from Gardiner can be found in another petition to the same General Assembly. Margaret Porter, wife of John Porter, a wealthy Rhode Island landowner, complained to the court that her husband had deserted her and gone to Pettaquamscut leaving her without means of supporting herself. In her petition, Margaret said that her husband "is destitute of all congugall love towards her, and suitable care for her". She requested that Porter be required to support her from his large estate. Porter was a well-respected member of the community and was expected to behave accordingly. The General Assembly sided with Margaret and ordered Porter to support her, which he arranged to do within the month. As soon as that divorce occurred, Porter and Herodias moved in together and he then conveyed large tracts of his lands to her children. No record of a marriage between this couple has been found.
|John Porter's Pettaquamscut lands showing transfers to Herodias's sons|
No further mention of Herodias occurs in any of the records so we must assume that she and John lived happily ever after. She died at the age of 99.
- Archer, Richard, "Fissures in the Rock: New England in the Seventeenth Century", University of New Hampshire, 2001, pages 73-77
- "Genealogies of Rhode Island, Volume 2", page 523
- Moriarty, G Andrews, "Herodias (Long) Hicks-Gardiner-Porter, A Tale of Old Newport" from "Genealogies of Rhode Island, Volume 1", pages 599-607
- "Some Notes on 18th Century Block Island", NEHGR Register, Volume 105, page 258
- Wikipedia article for Horodias Long and John Porter accessed online 22 March 2015
- Robinson, Caroline E, "The Gardiners of Narragansett, Being a Genealogy of the Descendants of George Gardiner the Colonist 1638", Providence Rhode Island 1919