9. Ann Austin and Mary Fishers Quaker Preachers that were put in jail before they even stepped foot in Boston in 1656
Ann Austin and Mary Fisher were Quakers. They left London in 1656 and sailed to the sugar island of Barbados. While in Barbados, the women were described as being “stricken in years.” In all likelihood the women were beyond their childbearing years. When they arrived in Barbados, they were well received and began professing, or preaching, the theology of Quakerism in hopes of converting many on the island. They were successful in converting island’s Lieutenant Governor.
Ann and Mary left Barbados on the Swallow and sailed to New England. The women were to preach about “the light within” and to convert others to Quakerism. to preach about “the light within.” The Massachusetts Colony was deemed hostile territory. As in England, Quakers were viewed as the worst sort of heretic. Colonial leaders did not tolerate Quakers stepping foot into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. When the women arrived in Boston on 11 July 1656 they were immediately taken to prison.
The first steps that Quakers took in New England were from their ship to prison. Colonial authorities then burned all of the printed literature that the women had with them and the boarded up the window of their jail. Ann and Mary were to remain there without food or water presumably until they died. Nicholas Upsall could not let the women be forgotten about or starve to death. He managed to bribe their prison guard, paying him 5 shillings per week in order to provide the women with food.
After five weeks in jail the women were placed back upon the Swallow and sent back to Barbados. In 1657 Ann Austin and Mary Fisher returned to London. The only Puritan in New England that they had convert to Quakerism was Nicholas Upsall. In London, Ann Austin continued to preach about Quakerism until her death in 1665. Reportedly she died in prison during the Great Plague of London and is buried in a Quaker cemetery. Other reports suggest that she joined Mary Fisher and settled in South Carolina.