Mary Downing

(Any changes made to the manuscript to correct known factual errors will be in parentheses.)

Mary Downing was born in either 1615 or 1620. There is information regarding both birth years and she may have been living in Ipswich, England or London, England or on Castle Street, Dublin, Ireland. That is where the Downings lived in 1620. This was near Sir James Ware's home. Sir James was Mary Downing's grandfather. Mary's step-uncle, John Winthrop, was governor of Massachusetts. After her mother died, her father married Lucy Winthrop (sister of John Winthrop). They belonged to the Puritan faith. In 1633 Mary and her sister, Susan, emigrated with Governor William Coddington to Boston, Massachusetts on the ship "Mary and Jane".

Upon arrival in Boston, she was immediately accepted as a church member. "Mary Downing kinswoman to our brother John Winthrop Governor" admitted to Boston church in November 1633 [BChR 16].

27th of November, 1635 Mary Downing wrote a letter to her father, Emmanuel Downing, defending her request for money (presumably in an earlier letter)to purchase new clothing. She respectfully responds to her step-mother's complaints of being a prodigal by explaining that her current, very old clothing, is giving offense to those around her. She also tries to explain that the lace she previously requested is perfectly unexeptionable in the Puritan society of Boston. The lace was for "crossclothes" which was a headdress worn by women at the time. The letter is as follows:

Worthy Sir, Deare Ffather, -- The continuall experience that I enjoy of your tener love and care to a child, though I confesse an underservinge one, (yet) your love emboldens mee to prsent my humble duty and respect I owe, and shall render with my might and power, to yourselfe, so longe as it pleaseth the Lord to continue my life. I have found soe much your love and see that neither time not distance of place doth diminish or blast the same, wch I confesse and desire to acknowledge as a great mercy and the cheife comfort for a temporall that I have to sloace my selfe withall. Father, I trust in Him who hath the harts and the disposinge of them in His hand, that I have not provoked you to harbor soe ill an opinion of me as my mothers ltres. do signifie and give me to understand; the ill opinion and hard pswasion wch shee beares of mee, that is to say, that I should abuse your goodnes, and bee prodigall of yor purse, neglectfull of my brothers bands and of my slatterishnes and lasines; for my brothers bands I will not excuse myselfe, but I thinke not worthy soe sharpe a reproofe; for the rest I must needs excuse, and cleare my selfe if I may bee beleived. I doe not know my selfe guilty of any of them;for myne owne part I doe not desire to bee myne owne judge, but am willinge to bee judged by them with whom I live and sees my course, whether I bee addicted to such thinges or noe. For my habitt, it is meane, for the most, as many servants, adn if I had not had money wch I had for some thinges here, I might have wanted many necessaries wch I could not have bin without, except I should have made you a score {debt} here, wch I was not willing to doe. I writt to my mother for lace, not out of any prodigall or proud mind, but only for some crosse cloathes, which is the most allowable and commendable dressinge here. Shee would have mee weare dressings, wch I did soe longe as they would suffer mee, whilest the elders with others intreated mee to leave them of, for they gave great offence; and seeing it hath pleased the Lord to bringe mee hither amongst His people I would not willingly doe any thinge amongst them that should be displeasinge unto them. But for myne owne part since my sendinge for thinges gives such offence I will be more sparinge in that kind hereafter, but leave it to the Lord to deale with mee accordinge to His mercy, earnestly desireinge Him to give mee an hart to bee content with my portion, knowinge that nothinge can beefall mee but that that Hee hath appointed. I may take that verse in the 106th Psalme 17th verse, fooles because of their transgressions and their iniquities are afflicted, soe I thinke that just it is, whatsoever affliction shall come unto mee. Deare Father, I am farr distant from you and know not how longe it will please the Lord to continue it soe, but howsoever I desire to rest satisfied with His will, and doe earnestly desire to submitt my selfe in all duty and obedience, as belongeth unto a child, to yourselfe and my mother as if I were with you. Father, I pceive by yr ltres that you would very willingly to have mee change my condition, wch I must confesse I might so may with divers, if the Lord pleased to move my hart to accept any of them, but I desire to wayte upon Him that can change my hart at His will Thus with my humble duty to yorselfe and my mother, craving pdon of you both, and of her if I have given her any offence, and soe desiringe yor prayers to Him who is able to give wisedome and direction to me in all thinges I rest

Yor obedient daughter till death Mary Downinge Boston 27th of Novemb: 1635

Sources have 2 opinions regarding her statement of "change my condition". One source believes it is a reference to her religious conversion and is sidestepping that issue until the time is right. Other sources believe it was in response to matchmaking attempts by her parents. Sources: "From Instruction to Delight" An Anthology of Children's Literature to 1850, second edition. Oxford University press pg. 24-25.
Also: Solomon Stoddard by Ralph J. Coffman, Northeastern University, Twayne Publishers, pg 23.
Also: The winthrop papers in: Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 1-Fifth Series. This has been digitized by Google and is available at the following link: Pages 81, 82. This source also states that there are no other letter from her pen has been found.