April 16, 1701

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, in her book Good Wives, uses the term “deputy husband” in describing one of many roles a woman assumed as a wife.   Sarah Butler was acting as a “deputy husband” when she gave her consent to William Gaylord to propose marriage to her daughter Hope.  A remarkable letter written by Sarah Butler recently came into our possession and has amazed all of us by its uniqueness.

Sarah Stone married Thomas Butler of Hartford, Connecticut and with him had 13 children.  By 1688, Thomas was dead and she still had children at home, including her youngest, Hope.

She responded to a letter from a kinsman of William Gaylord,  in which he expressed William’s desire that she provide her “approbation or allowance” so he could “treat” with her daughter Hope “in order to an agreement of marrying”.

In her April 16, 1701 letter, she writes “I have considered of the motion and have looked up to God for direction and commendation of the man concerning his peaceable disposition & your hopes of grace & also something concerning his advantage for maintenance in this life.”  These were concerns a father would surely have had for his daughter, particularly the man’s ability to support a wife. In this case, however, Sarah had to take charge.

Sarah gives her consent in this letter, and a year later William and Hope were married.

Sarah Butler letter, 1701 April 16. Ms 100711.

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