Tag Archives: christianity

Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey

Indiana University Press; 1989

Abigail Abbot Bailey’s account[1] of domestic violence neither seems atypical nor surprising from many other women’s accounts of what they’ve experienced in abusive relationships. However, Abigail’s faith and trust in God coupled with her understanding  of it—what it actually means and the way in which it should be manifested in her life—is what sets her story apart from other women’s stories.

Abigail’s family upbringing explains how her understanding of trust in God had been shaped. She had a relatively peaceful and loving family. Submission to her parents was never a problem because they provided care and sacrifice. Her lack of experience in struggles and hardships did not allow her to understand what it meant to fully trust God and activate her faith.

Early on in her marriage to Asa Bailey, she notices that he exhibits sinful behavior in his life, but she is eager to show him grace because she believes he has yet to be converted and that every human being has sinned before God. Thus, she has no right to judge, but only to impart forgiveness on her husband. Abigail honestly explains that she “would rather suffer wrong than do wrong” (Taves, 57). Her first and foremost devotion is to please God and live in holiness. Her belief could also be explained through her understanding that any kind of earthly suffering was endurable because Christ’s life entailed the ultimate suffering on behalf of the world. She would simply be partaking in Jesus’ life and her duty as a Puritan woman to conform to the image of her Savior.

Multiple times she “trusted in the Lord to deliver” her (Taves, 60). Abigail believed that trusting in God meant praying and idly hoping that he would either rescue her hardships by changing her husband to be a better man even to convert. In fact, her hope that Asa would change was probably one of the main factors that encouraged her to remain in the marriage for so long. One psychology article[2] states that one of the factors that contribute to a person finally deciding whether or not to leave an abusive relationship is “belief that the abuser would change” (Strube, 837). If her own previous definition of “trust in God” did not change, I do not believe that she expected to separate from him by leaving him or attaining a divorce.

Nevertheless, in the latter part of their marriage (after Asa’s incest with their daughter was made known to her) together she began to consider a new definition—“that trusting in God implies the due use of all means” (Taves, 174). Her faith became active and she became a participant in the decisions she made for her life.


[1] Bailey, Abigail Abbot, and Ann Taves. Religion and Domestic Violence in Early New England: The Memoirs of Abigail Abbot Bailey. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Print.

[2] Strube, Michael J., and Linda S. Barbour. “Factors Related to the Decision to Leave an Abusive Relationship.” Journal of Marriage and Family 46.4 (1984): n. pag. JSTOR. Web. Sept. 2012. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/352531&gt;.

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