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Saretta G. Hicks papers on Lady Deborah Moody

Call Number



1558-1656, 1963-1965, inclusive


Hicks, Saretta G.


1.46 Linear Feet in three full manuscript boxes and one half manuscript box.

Language of Materials

English .


This collection consists of papers gathered and, in many cases, written by author Saretta G. Hicks during the period 1963 to 1965. The material includes her notes and research for an unfinished book about Lady Deborah Moody titled Dangerous Woman: A Biography of Deborah, Lady Moody of Coney Island. Lady Moody is best known as the founder of the town of Gravesend in what was then New Amsterdam and later became a part of Brooklyn, N.Y. Of particular note is the inclusion of copies of original documents pertaining to Lady Moody's family history. There is also a four-page typed transcript of Gravesend town meeting records from 1656.

Biographical Note

Born circa 1583 in Avebury, England, Deborah Dunch "…was the daughter of a barrister, granddaughter of a Bishop, wife of a member of Parliament," and a distant relative to Oliver Cromwell by marriage. Her husband, Sir Henry Moody, was made a baronet by King James I in 1622. After her husband passed away in 1629, Lady Moody was beset with financial difficulties and, finding the political atmosphere in England increasingly insupportable, immigrated to Lynn, MA in 1639.

At first welcomed in Lynn, Lady Moody's sympathies for the Anabaptist movement soon created increasing difficulties for her. Writer Saretta G. Hicks's research points especially to Lady Moody's support of the Anabaptist practice of limiting baptism to adults as a major point of contention with members of the community. The Anabaptists, a minority in Massachusetts, also advocated a separation of church and state. Lady Moody left Massachusetts in 1643 in search of a more tolerant, or less controlling, atmosphere.

She settled in New Amsterdam (later New York City), but in 1645 led a group of English settlers to Long Island and established a colony at Gravesend, located at the southern tip of Long Island, an area somewhat sheltered from the Atlantic Ocean by the westernmost extension of Coney Island and the town of New Utrecht. The grant to Lady Moody and her supporters consisted of present-day Coney Island and all of Gravesend and Sheepshead Bay. Author Jacob Judd noted that Gravesend "was organized under a Dutch patent providing for freedom of worship and self-government and by the 1650s had become a well-known haven for persecuted Quakers." It was also the first grant of land in the New World to a female.


  1. Hicks, Saretta G. Dangerous Woman: A Biography of Deborah, Lady Moody of Coney Island. Unpublished manuscript.
  2. Judd, Jacob. "Moody, [née Dunch], Deborah, Lady." The Encyclopedia of New York City. Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson. New Haven: Yale University Press and the New-York Historical Society, 1995: p. 767.

Scope and Contents

In addition to materials pertaining to Lady Moody's life, this collection also contains correspondence. Most of this relates to Ms. Hicks' research during the period 1963 to 1965 and is business-like in tone. A few letters, however, provide some insight into the author's personal life. Of particular note is a copy of the Hicks family's Christmas letter of 1964, written by Saretta Hicks and containing photographs of each of her family members. It provides a brief glimpse into Ms. Hicks' life as she balanced the demands of family and authorship. Another letter, written in 1965 to Ms. Mary Tatchell in England, sheds some light on why the book was never finished. This letter notes that she had two chapters ready to be sent to a publisher in hopes of obtaining a contract when she discovered some additional information that led her to question Lady Moody's date and place of birth. It appears that she decided to hold her manuscript until she could resolve the discrepancy. The exact dates of Lady Moody's birth and death still remain uncertain in current scholarship, as evidenced by her entry in The Encyclopedia of New York City which gives her date of birth as "1583?" and her death as "between November 1658 and May 1659."

The collection is comprised of two accessions, 1978.170 and 1980.003. Material that comprises accession number 1978.170 consists of Ms. Hicks' correspondence and research notes. There are some magazine and newspaper clippings, as well as guidebooks to and photographs of sites in England. This portion of the collection also includes one book, English Historic Costume Painting Book: Elizabeth and James I, 1558-1625, No. 6 (London: Winsor & Newton, Ltd., 1947). Also included are copies of original documents about Lady Moody and her family, genealogical charts (pedigrees) tracing the lineage of the Moody family, and a genealogical chart for the Hicks family. Also included are a typed transcript of the 1645 patent for Gravesend and a four-page typed transcript of the Gravesend town meeting records of 1656.

Accession number 1980.003 consists of Hicks' typewritten manuscript of the first three chapters of Dangerous Woman: A Biography of Deborah, Lady Moody of Coney Island and outlines of the remaining chapters. The collection also contains newspaper and magazine clippings about various locations in Massachusetts, New York, and England, as well as four indexes. The first of these organizes information about significant people and events in Lady Moody's life. The second indexes major dates in the history of the Moody family. The third index presents information on Gravesend and includes a list of early settlers. The fourth indexes bibliographic sources.


  1. Judd, Jacob. "Moody, [née Dunch], Deborah, Lady." The Encyclopedia of New York City. Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson. New Haven: Yale University Press and the New-York Historical Society, 1995: p. 767.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to users without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

Writings in this collection by Saretta Hicks are subject to literary copyright. Permission to quote or publish from these writings must be obtained from the copyright holder. Please consult library staff for more information.

Preferred Citation

Identification of item, date (if known); Saretta G. Hicks papers on Lady Deborah Moody, ARC.276, Box and Folder number; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source and date of acquisition for accession 1978.170 are unknown. Accession 1980.003 was the gift of the estate of Saretta G. Hicks, 1980.

Other Finding Aids

An earlier version of this finding aid, containing a complete container list, is available in paper form at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Please consult library staff for more information.

Collection processed by

Liz Larson

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:16:43 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: English

Processing Information

Minimally processed to the collection level.

The collection combines the accessions 1978.170 and 1980.003.

Note Statement

change to complete_collection_level


Brooklyn Historical Society


Box: ARC.276 1 of 4 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.276 4 of 4 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.276 3 of 4 (Material Type: Text)
Box: ARC.276 2 of 4 (Material Type: Text)

This finding aid does not include an online listing of contents.

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Center for Brooklyn History
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