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The following program is produced and recorded in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. We present the American woman in fact in fiction from Colonial Times to the present day. A series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard and produced by Virginia Maynard and Charles Levy part 1. Since the early Calvinist theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay settlements was deeply rooted in the doctrines of the Old Testament and as such was strictly authoritarian. There was no place in the rigid doctrines of the Puritans for the principles of equality or freedom of thought or action for human beings. Man was born to sin as the sparks fly upward and must be sternly controlled and compelled if necessary to walk on the powers of righteousness. At the top of society was a little clique of the elect the chosen of God who determined what was right or wrong for the unregenerate masses and maintain the authority to enforce their
decision. There is a twofold liberty said John Winthrop governor first. The liberty of nature which men shares with the beasts. This is an equal liberty toward good and evil and is to be rooted out. The second to our civil liberty is the proper end an object of authority and cannot subsist without it. It is a liberty to that only which is good just and honest what was good just and honest of course was decided by John Winthrop and the other Puritan elders who also affix the penalties for deviated from their decrees. Women under the system of government suffer even more severely than did men. Since woman was the direct descendant of Eve who had brought sin into the world she must be even more closely controlled and curved than man. It was only under the guidance of a good husband that woman could truly rise above her predisposition to evil. Then there she behaved admirably. She could achieve something like his status in grace.
Governor Winthrop says the woman's own choice makes a man her husband. Yet being so chosen he is her lord and she is to be subject to him. True wife a common source objection her honor and freedom and would not think her condition safe and free but in subjection to her husband's authority. Such a woman was a pearl without price as was the saintly wife of the Reverend Thomas Shepherd. She limited her readings to her husband's notes which she mused on every week says Winthrop commenting on her untimely death. She had an excellent seat to reprove for sin and discern the evils of man but woe be unto the woman who departed from such paths of righteousness. There was a mistress Hopkins the wife of the governor of Connecticut who lost her understanding and reason Winthrop says and was brought to Boston to try what means was to be had for her. She had grown into a sad infirmity he goes on by giving herself wholly to reading and
writing and had written many books. If she had attended to her household affairs and such things as belonged to a woman and had not gone out of her way in calling to meddle in such things as are proper for men whose minds are stronger. She had kept her wits and might have improved them usefully and honorably in the place that God had sent her. Her husband he concludes saw his error too late. In this atmosphere the offenses of women against church and state were drastically punished and the ministers came out of their studies to witness the confinements in the stocks the clap sticks upon the tongue the whippings and hangings and pressings to death which they had ordain adultery which involved the inheritance and property laws was punishable by death until sixteen thirty eight when the penalty was changed to a whipping and banishment. Nathaniel Hawthorne had 1850 looking back on this time devoted his greatest novel to the subject of such an
offender against the Puritan code Hawthorne's knowledge of colonial history was extensive and he has left mankind a compelling document of the somber life of a woman during the Puritan regime. Let us now turn back some 300 years in time and listen to the voice of Hester Prynne as she tells her story of The Scarlet Letter. A throng of bearded men in sad colored garments and grey steeple crowned hat you know mixed with women some wearing hoods and others bareheaded was assembled before a wooden edifice the door of which was heavily timbered and studded with iron spikes. The place was a prison lane in Boston at the time. Somewhere about the mid part of the seventeenth century. In the early days of
the American colony of Massachusetts only some half a century after the great Elizabeth sat upon the throne of England. All eyes in the throng were intently fastened on the iron clamped oaken door of the prison. Behind that door stood I was a babe in my arms and just before me the grim and grisly presence of the town beating a sword by his side and his staff of office in his hand who represented in his aspect the whole does most of verity of the Puritan code of law which it was his business to administer. Suddenly the door was flung open and a shaft of blinding sunshine lighted up the interior of the jail. The Babe heretofore acquainted only with the gray twilight of a dungeon or rather dark some apartment of the prison winked and turned aside her face from the two vivid light of day. And I for a moment shrank back into the grey twilight of the hall. Looking forth from my blessid concealment upon the faces of my fellow townsman and
former neighbors. Whom I could see quite plain. Even to the grim rigidity of their countenances the voices of those closest to the door came to my ears with great distinctness. Why I tell you a piece of my mind. It would be greatly to the public Bihu if we women being about your age and church members in good repute should have the handling of such malefactors as this historic Briton would think. If that has he stood up for judgement before us fight that or no here together would you come off with the two sentences the worshipful magistrate demoted to marry I trow no RA is suppose to said to the Rev. Dinsdale God pastor takes it very grievously to heart the Texas panhandle should have come upon his congregation the magistrate or God fearing gentleman but at the very least they should have put the brand of a hot iron on histograms Florida matter. There would have winced at that I warrant. But surely the naughty back into the hall will she care what they put on the
bodice of her gown. Who are looking to make up with approach or suchlike heathenish adornment and so walk the streets as brave as ever on the cover of the market she will be always do no harm. Why do you talk of marks and brands whether on the bodice of her gown or the flesh of her foreign. This woman has brought shame upon us all and up to die they are not love. There is hope in the scripture and then must a magistrate to have made it of no effect. Thank themselves of their own wives. Doctors go on strike. Mercy on us could live just a little virtue in woman shape which springs from a wholesome figure the gallows that just the hardest word mark the soft hearted man she gossips. Yes. We have come to this. Do you know she's right looking at it. And I'd rather she just pressed
their side of this and tell it out. That's pretty good and I don't remember seeing all those right just how many of Massachusetts right down to the sunshine. I don't show your ass all that plate. Would be to draw me forward to the threshold of the prison door. Stood fully revealed before the throne. My first impulse upon realizing this was to clasp the infant more closely to my breast. Thereby to conceal the mark which is fastened into by GOLL. However judging that one token of my shame would the poorly served to hide another. I left the child upon my own and holding my head high I repeal the hand of the beetle and stepped forward into the open air of my own free will. I think I heard my neighbors with a hearty smile and looked calmly around at the townspeople of Boston throwing back my shoulders the better to display the scarlet letter to their view. The Beatles stretched forth his official
staff and opened a lane through the crowd of spectators. And attended by the procession of stern browed man and unkindly visits women and curious schoolboys whom our deal had afforded a half holiday. I followed him to the place appointed for my punishment. It was no great distance from the prison to the marketplace. Yet in my experience it seemed a journey never to be ended. For despite my awkward calm I underwent an agony from every footstep of those who throng beside me as though my heart had been flung into the street for them to spurn and trampled upon. Nor did they attempt to restrain their voices and their remarks about me as I progress in this new fashion by God now that you had made yourself in the prison. Upon my life. She's more the high and mighty medium ever I thought to see that when you become down in the world you know you are fully she got the letter.
She has good skeleton ego that's what you do for a woman before this brazen hussy can drive such a way of showing it. Why gossip What is it but to laugh in the faces of our God the magistrates that make up right out of what they a worthy gentleman for when each man. Well if we stick man in Hester's which don't offer anything to show me. And as for the letter which she had stitched so cheery asleep on the stone right I got my own rheumatic final to make up for her one. Piece to this is right here you notice did you not have a broader look about you silly dinner. You know nater there was a provision I like marvelous and merciful that the sufferer shall never know the intensity of what he endures by its present torture. But chiefly by the pang that rankles after. Thus I pass through this portion of my ordeal until I came to the scaffold of the pillory at the western extremity of the marketplace knowing that in my case it had been judged I should not have to undergo the gripe about the neck and
confinement of the head of that instrument of discipline. I ascended the wooden steps turned about and displayed myself to the surrounding multitude about the height of a man shoulders above the street. On the balcony of the meeting house looking down upon the platform that the governor and several of his councillors a judge a general and the ministers of the town. Accordingly at this point the crowd became somber and great. I had fortified myself to encounter the venomous stabs of public constantly and insult. But there was a quality much more terrible in the solemn silence now and in the weight of those thousand unrelenting eyes fastened upon me and concentrated upon my bosom. I longed to behold all those rigid countenances contorted with scornful merriment. And each man. Each woman. Each little shrill voice child burst into one roar of laughter. I might have repaid them with a disdainful smile. But under this
leaden inflection which was my doom to endure. I felt at moments as if I must needs shriek out with the full power of my lungs and cast myself from the scaffold down upon the ground. Or else go mad. There were intervals as I stood there and seemed seem to vanish before my own. My memory was preternaturally active and kept bringing up other scenes in this rough hewn street of a little town on the edge of the western wilderness. Other faces than those faces lowering upon me from the brims of those steeple crowned hat. I remembered my schooldays. My native village in Old England. My father's face with its bald brow and Reverend white beard thought over the old fashioned Elizabeth and wrung. My mother's too with his look of heedful an anxious look. I saw in my own face. Glowing with girlish beauty in illuminating the interior of the dusky mirror in which I didn't want to gaze at him.
And then came another continent. Of a man stricken in years. I'll pay you the scholar like a disease with eyes dim and blue by the lamplight that would serve them to pour over many ponderous books. You're gifted with a strange penetrating power when it came to reading the human soul. This last figure was slightly to four with the left shoulder a trifle higher than the right. And next. Still in connection with this Michigan scholar. Came the picture of a wedding journey to a continental city with tall grey houses and huge cathedrals. Ancient India. Then at last came back to the market place of the Puritan settlement. With all the townspeople assembled and leveling their stern regarded history. As myself. Who stood on the scaffold of the pillory and the infant on my arm and the letter A in scarlet fantastically embroidered with gold thread upon my bosom.
Could it be true. I clutched the child so fiercely to my breast that it sent forth a cry. I turned my eyes downward to the Scarlet Letter. Even touched with my finger. You. This reality said Ben. From this intense concentration I was at Linc distracted by discerning on the outskirts of the crowd a figure which irresistibly took possession of my thoughts. It was a man small in stature with a group busy. And with a remarkable intelligence in his features. Dressed in a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume. It was evident as well that one of this man's shoulders rose higher than the other. And the features were well known. To me. Yet such was my abstraction that I did not at once comprehend the fact of his presence here before me. His reality was lost in the dreamlike quality of the scene. Yet of the sudden as his eyes met mine. I saw him start and at once I was
aware this was no specter. His eyes darkened with a powerful emotion which he instantaneously controlled however and seeing the look of horrified recognition in my eyes he raised his finger and laid it on his lips. Then made his way forward through the crowd to the bottom of the scaffold quite close to me and without looking again toward where I stood you addressed himself to the townsmen next to him. I pray you good sir. Who is this woman. Well Farai she said up to the public shame you must needs be a stranger in this region friend else he would surely have heard of Misters Hester Prynne and her evil doings. She raised a goodly scandal invested in it as Judge You say truly I am a stranger would be no wonder. Surely against my will. I have met with grievous mishaps by seen and been held long in bonds among the heathen folk of the southwest. Will it please you therefore to tell me of Hester Prynne had my name rightly.
Of this woman's offenses and what is brought of the young to scaffold and truly frightened and we think it must be read in your heart after your troubles and sojourn in the wilderness to find yourself in a land where iniquity is searched out and punched in the side of rulers and people as here in our godly New England. Young woman said You must know was the wife of a certain learned man English by birth but he would long dwelt in Amsterdam when some good time a gone he was minded to cross over and yes does a lot with us of Massachusetts for this purpose he sent his wife before him remaining himself to the campus necessary Ferrers marry goods or in some two years or less. That this woman has been a drummer here in Boston. No tidings have come of this learned gentleman Mr. Prince. And his young wife look you being left to her own misguided I can see fuel sold in a demand as you speak of should have learned this too in his books. And who by all save us
may be the father of young debate which Mr. Spain is holding you know of a true friend in that matter remain at the riddle and the Daniel who shall expend it as yet. I want. Madam Hester absolutely refusing to speak and the magistrates have laid their heads together and write peradventure the guilty one stands looking on at a sad spectacle unknown of my own and forgetting that God sees you. The learned man should come himself to look into the mystery it behooves him. Well it would be still be a lie. Now good sir. Our Massachusetts magistrate. Be Thinking themselves at this woman who's youthful and fair and doubtless was strongly tempted to her fall. And then moreover as is most likely her husband may be at the bottom of the sea. Well they have not been told to put in force the extremity of our righteous law against her. The penalty there are always death. But in their great mercy and tenderness of heart they have doomed mistress pretty and to stand only a space of three hours on the
platform of the pillory and then and thereafter for the remainder of her life there where a mark of shame about her bosom. Why Sinton its. Laws she will be a living sermon again seen until the ignominious letter be engraved upon a tomb stone. It hurts me nevertheless. But the partner of our iniquity should not at least stand on the scaffold by a host site. But he will be no. He will be no. I was transported from the big numbing effect of this conversation by the consciousness that my name was being called in a loud and solemn tome from behind me. I have mentioned before that directly over the platform on which I stood was a kind of open gallery appended to the meeting house where sat the governor and his assembly each turning and lifting my head I beheld the famous John Wilson the oldest clergyman of
Boston standing now and addressing. Beside him stood my pastor. The Reverend author Dimsdale. The young minister who had come over from England not long since. Bringing all the learning of the age into our wild forest life. This latter was a person a very striking aspect. With a pure and often. Large melancholy eyes. And a mouth which expressed both nervous sensitivity and a power of self-restraint. He's eloquence and religious fervor had already given him the earnest of high eminence in his profession. The freshness and dewy purity of his thought affecting many people as they professed like the speech of an angel. Now the young man spake again. I have striven with my younger brother here under who is preaching you have been privileged to see it. I have so little I say to persuade this god to you
that he should deal with you here in the face of heaven and before all these wise and upright people. As touching the vileness and blackness of your knowing your natural temper better than I he could the better judge what arguments to you whether of tenderness Tarif such as might prevail over your hardness and obstinacy you so much that you should no longer hide the name of him. Tim did you lose grievous poses to meet with a young man is wise beyond his years. That it will wrong in the very nature of woman to fall so did I open no secrets in such a broad daylight. I did the presence of so great a multitude truly as I sought to convince him. The shame lay in the commission not to see in and not in the showing of it. What say you once again
brother Dimsdale to most of all I am still dealing with this. Pause. Speak to the woman my brother it is a moment to the soul and therefore momentous truth I don't know if you know those chargers ears exhorted her to confess the truth as you will. Father Wilson Hester Prynne all here stop the good man says and see is the accountability under which I labor. If Garfield stood before the ISOs peace and that I earthly punishment will therefore be made more effectual to salvation. I charge thee to speak out the name of a fellow sinner and fellow sufferer. He not silent for any mistaken pity and tenderness for him. Believe me Hester though he were to step down from a high place
and stand there beside the on Die pedestal of shame yet better world itself than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can vice silence do for him except to tempt him. Yeah compel him as it were to add hypocrisy to see in heaven how to Granted V and open ignominy. That thereby work out and Open triumph over the evil within the. And the sorrow without. Take heed how they will deny us to him who by chance has not the courage to grasp it for himself. The bitter but wholesome Cup that is now presented to the lips. Of ministers. Home again. Trumps close not beyond the limits of having small seat. Belts little paper has been gifted with the boys.
Second I was told from brother to speak go to the. Church and repent to take on it. Not at all Barbara. You cannot take it all. It is too deeply grounded and with that I might endure his agony as well as mine in the right moment to speak and give your child a father I will not speak. And my child must seek our Heavenly Father. She will never know when earthly one she will not speak. One of strength and generosity of a woman's. She will not speak. The US has two Prin in this opening section from Nathaniel
Hawthorne's scarlet letter. For those who are not familiar with the story we note here that the high shouldered stranger who appeared on the scene during Hester's punishment was her husband and the young minister author Dimsdale who made the plea that she speak out the name of her fellow sinner was the father of her child. From this initial situation Hawthorne in the scarlet letter has gone on to create a compelling drama of human weaknesses and strengths under the grim shadow of the Puritan author and look back upon this period in the mood of a gentler day. And his story is of course a fiction but he has recreated admirably in this work. The harshness and rigidity of the early Puritan era its fanatical emphasis upon asceticism and conformity which expressed itself in a passion for scapegoating as a means of cleansing the community from sin. The rampant superstition of the times pervades the entire work. There is a suggestion of witchcraft
that Hester was in communication with Satan but little pearl her child was a demon offspring. This was the atmosphere which was to give rise to the violence and terror of the witch mania of the late 17th century. Such an outburst of mass hysteria can be understood only in relation to the asceticism of the time and of the belief in woman's power for evil which goes back to the earliest primitive to Buddha's connected with woman's magic and dominance. The Puritan fathers acting upon to them the highest philosophical principles made a mighty effort to root out of the community. And in that effort hundreds of innocent beings not only women but men who were somehow implicated in this evil were persecuted and tortured or hanged. But this excess was followed by a revulsion against the type of thinking which had caused it. Most of those connected with the judicial proceedings publicly admitted their error. The
jurors signed a paper pleading that they had labored under a delusion and many of those who had confessed themselves witches or of been instrumental in accusing others retracted all they had said and admitted that they had acted under the influence of terror. The clergy lost much of its early prestige and we can do is hold upon the people and the atmosphere became one in which the idea of toleration might be permitted to grow. The reaction of society was a move toward the repudiation of the theory of that woman through Eve was responsible for the sinfulness of man. The beginning of the end of this oldest conflict between men and women. That was part one of the American woman in fact and fiction from Colonial Times to the present day series of 13 programs written and directed by Virginia Maynard. The cast included Charles Levy Lewis hero joy Cole and Virginia Maynard engineering was by David L. Talcott the American woman in fact and fiction was produced and recorded
in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the end of the Radio Network.
The American woman in fact and fiction
Episode Number
Episode 1 of 13
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This series, written and directed by Virginia Maynard, dramatizes various stories of women from colonial times to the Twentieth century.
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Director: Maynard, Virginia
Writer: Maynard, Virginia
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Chicago: “The American woman in fact and fiction; Episode 1 of 13,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
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APA: The American woman in fact and fiction; Episode 1 of 13. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from