Lady Deborah Moody, her baronetcy inherited from her husband, was a 43-year-old widow when she immigrated from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639. She had left England because she felt she could not live there as an Anabaptist. But that religion was not acceptable in the Puritan New England settlements either and she was forced to leave there too.
Lady Moody and some of her followers moved to the more religiously tolerant New Netherland and settled on unoccupied land in south Brooklyn in 1643. In late 1645, William Kieft, governor-general of New Netherland, granted her a charter that not only allowed freedom of religion, but the right to make the land a self-governing town.
She called it Gravesend and became the first woman to charter land in the New World.
The name Gravesend may have come from the Dutch words grafes and ande, which together would mean “end of the grove.” Another theory is that Kieft named it for Gravesande, a town in Holland that had been the seat of the Counts of Holland and means “count’s beach.” Gravesend is also a city on England’s Thames River.
Lady Moody made Gravesend a home for many religious dissenters, especially the peace-loving Quakers, who also were banned from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook. He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism. He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.