n 1697, Native American raiders, probably from the Abenaki people, took English colonist Hannah Duston, 40 years old at the time, and her newborn daughter captive. A month later, Hannah rode back into Haverhill, Massachusetts, on a stolen canoe carrying a bag full of scalps. Hannah’s daughter had died or been killed, and Hannah herself had escaped after leading a plan, with her Abenaki nursemaid and a fellow English prisoner, to kill their four adult captors— and their six children. Shown the scalps as proof of Duston’s deeds, Massachusetts voted to give her a reward of 25 pounds.
If you visit the tiny, uninhabited island in New Hampshire where Duston is thought to have freed herself, you will find what is probably America’s very first monument celebrating a woman. Constructed in 1874, this marble monument shows her in a flowing nightdress. In her right hand is a hatchet. In her left hand, looking like a fading bouquet of drooping poppies, are the scalps, little curled pucks of skin gathered together by their hair. The accompanying historical marker sign calls Duston a “famous symbol of frontier heroism.”