Saturday, September 17, 2011

Biography - 1708 Husband Rules Children & Wife - Virginia - Ann Walker


Ann Walker's Fight To Attend Church

In 1708, Ann Keith Walker (1637- a 1708) appeared before the all male Royal Governor and Council in Williamsburg, Virginia, in a continuing dispute between her and George Walker (c1640-1732), her husband, over their religious beliefs and practices.

Ann, a member of the Church of England who tried to attend services regularly, faced opposition from her husband. He tried to prevent her from attending the church of her choice, and he was also adamant in his determination to direct the religious education of their children.

Ann Keith & George Walker, both born in Virginia, had married in 1691. George was a boat pilot on the James River, a gunner, and a shopkeeper at Fort Point Comfort. Ann had produced twins Elizabeth & Margaret in 1692; Jacob in 1694; Helen in 1696; George in 1698; Sarah in 1700; and Frances in 1702.

Unable to resove their differences, husband and wife both complained to the governor and Council. She asked for full liberty to attend church, to pursue her religious beliefs, and to raise her children as members of the Church of England. He asked for confirmation of his authority as a father to direct the religious education of their children.

The governor and Council granted both requests in part. Ann Walker was allowed freedom to attend church as she wished; and George Walker, "as Long as he proffesses to Be a Christian and Continues in the Exercise of it," was allowed to direct the religious education of their children, retaining "that authority over his Children that properly Belongs to Every Christian man."

The Church of England was the established church in colonial Virginia; but by 1708, many Virginians were Presbyterians or Quakers, as some earlier Virginians had been Puritans and later many Virginians became Baptists or Methodists.

The case of Ann Walker demonstrates the importance of religious beliefs among early Virginians; how differences of religious opinion could divide members of a family; how such important differences affected the religious education of children; how family members might call on the government to settle such controversies; and how men ruled in 18th-century Virginia.

In this instance, the authority of the husband prevailed over the wishes of the mother, even though the mother was a confirmed & committed member of the Church of England, the official church of the British American colonies, and the father was not.