Mary White was born c. 1637 in Somersetshire, England. The family left England sometime before 1650, settled at Salem in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and moved in 1653 to Lancaster, on the Massachusetts frontier. There, she married Reverend Joseph Rowlandson, the son of Thomas Rowlandson of Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1656. Four children were born to the couple between 1658 and 1669, with their first daughter dying young. Site of Rowlandson’s capture (Lancaster, Massachusetts)
At sunrise on February 10, 1675,[note 1] during King Philip’s War, Lancaster came under attack by Narragansett, Wampanoag and Nashaway/Nipmuc Indians. Rowlandson and her three children, Joseph, Mary, and Sarah, were among the hostages taken. For more than 11 weeks and five days, she and her children were forced to accompany the Indians as they fled through the wilderness to elude the colonial militia. Years later, she recounted the severe conditions during her captivity for all parties.
On May 2, 1676, Rowlandson was ransomed for ?20 raised by the women of Boston in a public subscription, and paid by John Hoar of Concord at Redemption Rock in Princeton, Massachusetts. In 1677, Reverend Rowlandson moved his family to Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he was installed as pastor in April of that year. He died in Wethersfield in November 1678. Church officials granted his widow a pension of ?30 per year.
Mary Rowlandson and her children moved to Boston where she wrote her captivity narrative. It was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1682, and in London the same year. At one time scholars believed that Rowlandson had died before her narrative was published, but she lived for many more years. On 6 August 1679, she had married Captain Samuel Talcott and taken his surname. She eventually died on 5 January 1711, outliving her spouse by more than 18 years.