Mary Bailey ("The Scarlet Letter")

Maine, United States

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Mary Magdalene Beadle Batchelder Turner (Bailey)

Also Known As: "Mary Bailey-Beadle- Batchler-Turner"
Birthplace: Hackney, Middlesex, England
Death: Died in Kittery, York, Maine
Place of Burial: Maine, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Robert Bailey and Cecily Bailey
Wife of Robert Beadle; Rev. Stephen Batchelder, of Hampton and Thomas Turner
Partner of George Rogers
Mother of Elizabeth Staples; Christopher Beedle; Robert Beadle and Mary Richards

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Mary Bailey ("The Scarlet Letter")

A book written in 1910 states that Mary Magdalene Bailey Beedle Bachiler Turner was the woman upon whom Nathaniel Hawthorne patterned Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter". The evidence is strong that Hester Prynne was a character derived from Hawthorne's extensive knowledge of the history of Kittery in colonial times. (S25).

see timeline tab for more source information

Mary Bailey, 1621-1685

  • Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins (1995)
  • Victor C Sanborn, Stephen Bachiler: An Unforgiven Puritan (1917)
  • Excerpt from "History of the Town of Hampton, New Hampshire" page 589-590
  • Excerpt from the "Press Reference Library, Notables of the Southwest" page 13

When Robert Beadle died on February 14, 1648, his farmstead was confirmed to his widow, Mary Bailey by the town of Kittery. Mary accepted a job as housekeeper for the 83-year-old reverend who came to Kittery from Lynn, Massachusetts in 1644, the widower Stephen Bachiler (Batcheler). He was recently excommunicated by the Puritans for allegedly attempting to seduce a neighbor's wife in nearby Hampton, New Hampshire, a town that he helped found in 1638. Oliver Wendell Holmes described the Reverend as "that terrible old sinner and ancestor of great men…There has been some controversy as to the fitness of the first distinction, but of the second there can be no doubt. Among his well-known descendants are Daniel Webster, orator; John Greenleaf Whittier, poet; General Benjamin F. Butler, soldier and lawyer, Wm. Pitt Fessenden, statesman; Caleb Cushing, diplomat; General R. N. Batcheler, Grant's Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, and many others of lesser note." Townspeople of Kittery became concerned when Mary took a job with the tainted reverend, enough to cause him to write a letter to the Maine Governor Winthrop that "it is a world of woes to think what rumors detracting spirits raise up, that I am married to her [Mary Bailey-Beadle] or certainly shall be; and cast on her such aspersions without ground or proof." On the first of April, 1650, the Reverend married Mary. On April 9, 1650, the Reverend was fined ten pounds by the court at Salisbury for not publishing his marriage according to law, and it was further ordered that he and Mary, regardless of the legitimacy of the alleged marriage, should live together as they agreed or face a fine of 50 pounds each. Later that same year at the York court, Mary Bailey-Beadle-Batcheler and her next door neighbor, George Rodgers, were charged with 'living in one house together and lieing in one room”. On October 15, 1651 they were convicted of adultery. George was sentenced to 40 stripes and Mary was sentenced to 30 stripes, six weeks after the birth of her baby with George. Kittery also mandated she wear the letter 'A' on her clothing. The baby, Mary Bachiler, was born, grew to adulthood, married William Richards, and lived a respectable life in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Captain William Hawthorne, who lived three farms north of the Batcheler home, documented Mary’s unique form of branding for adultery, and retold the story to his grandson, Nathaniel, who modeled Hester Prine in The Scarlet Letter after Mary.

On 14 October 1652, Mary was charged by the Kittery District Court for “entertaining idle people on the Sabbath”. Nevertheless, on 16 November 1652, she was the only woman among forty men who signed the Certificate of Submission required by the Puritan government of Massachusetts. She signed her name, when half the men could not. Signing the document brought her additional land in 1653 and 1654. Amid the years of adultery, the Reverend Batcheler returned to England and died in 1660. Mary meanwhile caught the attention of Thomas Turner, a laborer for the Hansom Ship Yard at Kittery, who wanted to marry her, but was unable to do so because the Reverend failed to get a divorce. Mary appealed to the Massachusetts General Court in 1656 to obtain a divorce, arguing that she did not want to live on the “charity of others and needed her freedom to remarry for assistance in rearing two ailing children and preserving her estate”. Her petition was granted and she married Tom in 1657.

DennisPotter55added this on 15 Nov 2010


A Young Widow

Our g-grandmother Mary Baily came from England when she was a child. She met Robert Beadle, a fisherman out of Kittery ME, and fell in love. They got married before she was 20 years old, and they made their home in Kittery. She was a church-going woman and active in her community. They were married for 5 years and had 2 children (Christopher and Elizabeth) when he died, presumably lost at sea. Mary was left alone to raise her young children -- there was no extended family, no social security insurance, and no help from the community. In those days, the options for single mothers was to get a menial low-paying job or get married.

Stephen Batchelder, an older widowed minister, invited Mary to be his housekeeper. In a letter to his friend, Governor John Winthrop, he wrote:

"And whereas, by approbation of the whole plantation of Strawberry Bank, they have assigned an honest neighbor, (a widow) to have some eye and care towards my family, for washing, baking, and other such common services, -- it is a world of woes to think what rumors detracting spirits raise up, that I am married to her, or certainly shall be and cast on her such aspersions without ground or proof, that I see not how possibly I shall subsist in the place, to do them that service from which, otherwise they cannot endure to hear I shall depart. The Lord direct and guide us jointly and singularly in all things, to his glory and our rejoicing in the day and at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ!"

Mary accepted his offer and moved in with her children. This arrangement was congenial and platonic, but Stephen's enemies saw this as a way to get revenge. The court ruled that Stephen and Mary both needed to tow the line. Although their age difference would seem to make their relationship improbable (he was 86 and she was only 25), they were fined 10 pounds for living in the same house while not being married. Stephen was not above bending the rules if he could side-step his enemies. Rather than pay, Stephen announced that he had performed the wedding ceremony himself and had forgotten to record it with the court. On April 9, 1650, the fine was reduced to 5 pounds "for not publishing his marriage according to law," and, in fact, the marriage appears never to have been recorded at all. It was "ordered that Mr. Bachelor and Mary his wife shall live together, as they publicly agreed to do, and if either desert the other, the Marshal to take them to Boston to be kept until next quarter Court of Assistants, to consider a divorce. Bail to be granted if satisfactory security could be obtained. In case Mary Bacheller live out of this jurisdiction without mutual consent for a time, notice of her absence to be given to the Magistrates at Boston." This order was unusually harsh even by Puritan standards, and shows how vindictive Stephen's enemies were.

The Trouble With Mary

Stephen and Mary did not want to be married to each other. Although the court threatened to divorce them, they would not grant it at the couple's request. Meanwhile, Mary fell in love with a neighbor closer to her age, George Rogers. This affair was discovered when Mary became pregnant. In 1651, Mary was sentenced by the Georgiana (York) Court: "We do present George Rogers and Mary Batcheller, the wife of Mr. Stephen Batcheller, minister, for adultery. It is ordered that Mrs. Batcheller, for her adultery, shall receive forty stripes save one, at the first town meeting held at Kittery, 6 weeks after her delivery, and be branded with the letter A." George was also flogged. In the end, their relationship did not survive the social pressure and the couple ended their affair. Mary had a baby girl and gave her Stephen's last name, although Stephen and his family disowned her.

Mary separated from Stephen and lived on a lot in Kittery, granted her in 1648, adjoining the Piscataqua River, nearly opposite the boundary line between Portsmouth and Newington. Meanwhile, Stephen's enemies had made life impossible for him and he left for England, never to return.

Meanwhile, Mary was stigmatized by the events and her actions were closely watched. She generally rejected the local church-goers as hypocritical, and they were quick to show their disapproval of her. She was accused and fined several times for adultery. Having sex while legally married to someone else was a sin and, therefore, a crime. Mary tried for many years to get a divorce from Stephen, but until it would be granted (even though the marriage was never recorded), any attempt at starting a relationship was illegal. When Mary was found to be living with Thomas Hanscom of Kittery, the court disapproved and the couple was ordered not to live together.

In a final appeal, Mary went to the court in Boston. Desperately, she claimed Stephen had taken another wife and that her children were "diseased". Stephen's relatives were afraid she was after his property and did their best to further malign her character, pointing out her supposedly loose character. In 1656, Mary's divorce was finally granted, and ironically, Stephen Bachiler was buried just seventeen days later. By this time, Thomas Hanscom had moved on and Mary was once again alone.

Finally, in 1657, at age 34, she married Thomas Turner and lived the rest of her life in quiet respectability.



  1. [S25]. Our Fascinating Ancestor, Stephen Bachiler. A Presentation by Eleanor Campbell Schoen. Solomon and Naomi Cox Reunion, May 22, 1999.

Convicted of adultery with her next door neighbor, George Rogers, while married to her second husband, The Rev. Batchelder. She was sentenced to wear a brand (Letter "A") on her upper garment.

A book written in 1910 on Nathanial Hawthorne states that Mary Magdalene Baily Beadle Batchelder Turner was the woman upon whom the author patterned Hester Prynne in "The Scarlet Letter". The evidence is further supported by Hawthorne's love and interest in Kittery, Maine, and his extensive knowledge of the town during colonial times.

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Mary Bailey ("The Scarlet Letter")'s Timeline

Hackney, Middlesex, England
Age 19
Kittery, York County, Maine, United States

Family Data Collection - Births
Name: Elizabeth Beadle
Father: Robert Beadle
Mother: Mary Bailey
Birth Date: 1651
City: Kittery
County: York
State: ME
Country: USA
Source Information:
Edmund West, comp.. Family Data Collection - Births [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2001.
The Family Data Collection - Births database was created while gathering genealogical data for use in the study of human genetics and disease.

Age 20
Age 21
Kittery, York, Maine
November 1651
Age 30
Kittery, York County, Maine, United States
Age 64
Kittery, York, Maine