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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary Batchellor was a woman who was branded with the letter "A" in 1851, around the same time as Hawthorne was writing "The Scarlet Letter". He may have used her story as one of the sources for his novel.

"The case of the woman branded for adultery first appeared in the records of York, in what is now Maine. Dated 15 October 1651, the entry reads:

"We do present George Rogers for, & Mary Batchellor the wife of Mr. Steven Batcheller minister for adultery. It is ordered by ye Court yt George Rogers for his adultery with mis Batcheller shall forthwith have fourty stripes save one upon the bare skine given him: It is ordered yt mis Batcheller for her adultery shall receive 40 stroakes save one at ye First Towne meeting held at Kittery, 6 weekes after her delivery & be branded with the letter A."

This may explain why in his introduction to the novel "The Custom House" Hawthorne says when he places the red letter on his breast he feels"as if the letter were not of red cloth, but red-hot iron".
However, this does not explain why an earlier version of Hester appeared in the story "Endicott and the Red Cross" which appears in 1838. Hawthorne may have been influenced by several sources when he wrote "The Scarlet Letter". For more provocative information, see the link below.