Butterworth Mary Peck

Mary Peck Butterworth (1686-1775), wife of 2nd cousin 9x removed

Colonial authorities knew of an extensive counterfeiting ring operating somewhere in the Rhode Island area throughout the later half of the 1710s and felt it was beginning to have a damaging impact on the entire colonial economy.  In 1722 colonial authorities became suspicious of Mary Butterworth after her husband John purchased a large, expensive new home for the family.  When one of the accomplices confessed to the governor, Mary’s house was searched but nothing was found.  Two of Butterworth’s associates (her brother and his wife) turned state’s evidence and also testified against her.  Ultimately however, the court dismissed all charges against her for lack of hard evidence.  After the trial, it is assumed that Mary mended her ways and lived the rest of her life as a model citizen.  She died at age 89 in 1775. She had, however, made more than £1,000 worth of fake bills during her “career.”  Her husband, John Butterworth died in 1771 at age 92.

Why this young, married, Puritan woman may have taken up a life of crime in what would be considered a man’s field is unknown.  But it seems Mary was so successful that she became probably the biggest counterfeiter in New England.  In July 2007, the National Women’s history Project featured Mary Butterworth on their website as a “Pathbreaker” along with four other women[1], with the explanation that “they solved problems and dreamed of solutions in a variety of professions and skills.  They showed determination, strength, original thinking, and civic responsibility.  Many faced problems of similar to today’s inequality”.  I’m not sure about “civic responsibility”, but it’s a good story anyway.

Mary Peck (1686 – 1775), wife of 2nd cousin 9x removed – John Butterworth (1679 – 1771) – John Butterworth (1651 – 1731) – John Butterworth (1630 – 1708) – Henry Butterworth (1598 – 1636) – Mary Butterworth (1629 – 1714) – Isaac Mason (1667 – 1742) – Sampson Mason (1700 – 1731) – Hannah Mason (1728 – 1798) – Reuben Baker (1758 – 1811) – Lydia Baker (1788 – 1851) – Fayette B Hamlin (1812 – 1866) – Henry Fayette Hamlin (1834 – 1901) – Clarence Clark Hamlin (1868 – 1940) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom

[1]  Maria Van Rensselaer held on to control the estate of her late husband; Mary Butterworth developed a unique and working technique of counterfeiting pound notes; Hannah Bailey developed pacifist curriculum materials for schools; Harriet Strong invented designs for water storage and Marion Talbot championed equal education and opportunity for women college students.



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