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Death Date Notes:
circa 1659


Englishwoman Deborah Dunch was born in London in 1586 to aa family of the landed gentry. . Her father was Walter Dunch of Avebury Manor in Wiltshire, and her mother was the daughter of the Bishop of Durham. Her paternal grandfather, Sir William Dunch, was the Auditor of the Royal Mint. Deborah herself married into the lesser nobility when she wed Sir Henry Moody, a baronet, in 1606.

At age 53 in 1639, a widow and persecuted for her Anabaptist beliefs, Lady Moody betook herself to a farm in Swampscott, MA, where she continued to practice her Nonconforming religious beliefs to the disapproval of her neighbor, a  leader in that Puritan colony. In her trial in 1643, Lady Moody was charged with spreading religious dissent. The church ordered her to give up her Anabaptism or be excommunicated. She chose the latter and moved again, this time to more tolerant New Netherland, where she was granted a patent for 7,000 acres of land by Governor William Kieft.


On December 19th, 1645, a land grant and town charter was given to Deborah, making her the first woman to found a settlement in the New World.  The community she established was Gravesend, now parts of Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Sheepshead Bay, the first settlement in America to be founded by a woman, and one where religious freedom was guaranteed to all.


Gravesend prospered, and Lady Moody became a respected participant in New Netherland’s governance. The Timeline has details.

A translation of the terms of the Indian Deed for this land is available here;   Lady Deborah Moody was the only woman to found a village in New Netherland.