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Elizabeth Meader Hanson (September 17, 1682 - c. 1737) was a colonial American woman from Dover, New Hampshire, who was captured by Native Americans during Father Rale's War and held hostage for over twenty-two months until she and most of her children were ransomed by her husband John Hanson. Her remaining child, Sarah, remained in captivity, and John died of exposure and illness attempting to secure her release. Ultimately, Sarah was married to the French Jean Baptiste Sabourin, thereby securing her freedom.[1] Her story, God's Mercy Surmounting Man's Cruelty, Exemplified in the Captivity and Redemption of Elizabeth Hanson, was written and edited by Samuel Bownas, and its first edition was published by Samuel Keimer in 1728.[2] Her captivity narrative was republished in London in 1760 as An Account of the Captivity of Elizabeth Hanson.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Hanson was born "Elizabeth Meader", the second daughter and fourth child of John Meader Jr. and Sarah Follett.[3] Little is known about her early life, save that she married John Hanson at age 20 on July 23, 1703.[4] The two had ten children altogether, eight of which were born prior to the Native American attack.

On September 7, 1724, Meader's household was attacked by Native Americans, likely from the Pennacook tribe, but possibly from the Sokoki or Missiquoi tribe.[1] Two of her youngest sons, Caleb and Ebenezer, were killed during this attack, and Hanson, her children (Sarah, Elizabeth Jr, Daniel, and Mercy), and a "servant-maid" were taken as captives to a Pennacook village in French-occupied Canada. Her captivity experience was grim but not overly torturous, as neither she nor her children were subjected to mutilation or physical punishment beyond a single punch. Lack of food was the largest concern, and at several points Hanson was forced to eat beaver intestines to survive. However, she was aided by several women of the tribe who taught her a few survival skills, and her gratitude expresses an open-mindedness that was not found in other captivity narratives, such as Mary Rowlandson's.

On September 12, 1725, her husband John Hanson ransomed her, three of her children, and the servant, but was unable to secure the release of Sarah, who was held by one of the squaws to marry a son of hers. On May 30, 1727, John Hanson traveled once more to the Pennacook village to try to ransom Sarah, but fell ill and died during the journey at Crown Point, New York.[1][5] His kinsmen were able to release Sarah from captivity by arranging her to marry Jean Baptiste Sabourin on August 9, 1727. Due to the trade agreement between the French and the Native Americans, Sarah could no longer be legally held as a captive, so her freedom was secured.

In 1726 Hanson gave birth to her final child, Abigail, and died in Dover, Strafford, New Hampshire, in 1737.[6]

References[edit | edit source]

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