A favorite Colonial dame is in the middle of another controversy.
Weeks after the New Hampshire Historical Society began selling a Hannah Duston bobblehead, one employee has quit and another has refused to sell it. They said they find the Duston doll, as well as another bobblehead of Chief Passaconaway, offensive to Native Americans.
In 1697, Hannah Duston was taken from her home in Haverhill, Mass., by Abenaki Indians to an island in the Merrimack River in Concord. She is said to have escaped by scalping members of the tribe.
Chief Passaconaway, a friend to English settlers and a key figure in New Hampshire's Colonial history, formed the Penacook Confederacy of more than a dozen tribes.
Rebecca Courser, who once managed the society's museum store and knows the two employees, said administrative assistant Lynn Clark resigned this month. Nancy Jo Chabot, who had worked in the society's museum store and as a security guard, now is working only as a security guard because she has refused to inspect or sell the dolls.
Both declined to comment, but Courser said Chabot told society officials in writing that she could not in "good conscience" sell the dolls.
A debate has raged over whether Hannah Duston was a heroine or villain for killing several Native Americans after some of them allegedly raided her home and killed her baby. Duston was taken to New Hampshire before she escaped and returned home.
Haverhill historian Thomas Spitalere works at the city's Buttonwoods Museum, which began selling the dolls last week. He said the dolls promote local history and he has no problem with them.
"I can understand one worker resigning and the other refusing to sell (the bobbleheads) if that's their belief, because it's a sensitive issue," Spitalere said. "But Hannah's a historical figure. You can't deny history.
"It happened during the French and Indian War when there were atrocities on both sides," Spitalere said of Duston's killing spree.
The bobblehead is also for sale at the John Greenleaf Whittier Birthplace in Haverhill and the Friends Shop at Haverhill Public Library.
A woman answering the phone at the library's gift shop said she sold two Hannah bobbleheads the first day they went on sale two weeks ago.
"They're a bit ridiculous, but I suppose that's a matter of personal taste," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "No one has complained about them (being for sale at the library) as far as I know."
The bobbleheads have been criticized as historically inaccurate and insensitive to American Indians. Duston is shown holding a hatchet. Passaconaway wears a bright blue cap. Critics said the society compounded the problem by celebrating a killer of Indians with a chief who presided over a peaceful time.
"To have the New Hampshire Historical Society come out with a caricature of an Indian after all these years of us working on this issue ... is just staggering," said David Stewart-Smith, historian for the state's Intertribal Council.
Bill Veillette, the society's executive director, wouldn't comment on personnel matters but defended his decision to choose Duston and Passaconaway for depiction as bobbleheads.
"If (the society) gets scared of every little criticism that comes at us, we'll crawl under the rock and do nothing," he said. "We'll become the most boring place in the world. We'll reinforce the notion that history is like religion and politics: You don't talk about it in polite company because you don't know who you will offend."
While the bobbleheads are intended to expose people to history, their real purpose is to make money for the society's other operations, he said.
"If you want the product to sell, frankly, you have to use the most iconic image that people are used to," he said.
He said Duston and Passaconaway were good choices because he wanted to focus on the 17th century, and it's more economical to release two dolls at once. The designs were based on other sources — a Duston statue in Haverhill and a 19th century etching showing the Indian chief in a pointed cap.
Courser said when she managed the store, the society vetted each new product through a committee before selling it. Veillette said he has no interest in that process or in consulting with American Indian groups on such decisions.
"We wouldn't and we shouldn't," he said. "For an exhibition we should, absolutely ... but we run our store probably like everyone else. ... You don't run it by the entire staff. You don't go out and consult with a bunch of people."
The bobblehead is not the first time Hannah has been commercialized. She's been immortalized through a variety of products over the years, including a Jim Beam whiskey bottle, ceramic coffee mugs and commemorative coins.
She is considered the first woman in America to be honored with a statue, which is in downtown Haverhill. She was the subject of local controversy when her image was used in posters that advertised the first Haverhill Rocks music festival in 2006.
But instead of Hannah holding a hatchet, as she does in her statue in GAR Park, the promoters placed an electric guitar in her hands. That controversial image helped launch a number of successful products locally, including T-shirts and hats, as well as the 2006 concert posters — which are in high demand.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Hannah Duston items sold at Haverhill Historical Society's Buttonwoods Museum
1965 Bicentennial coin with an image of Hannah Duston: $5
Postcards with images of Hannah Duston and her husband, Thomas Duston: $1
Hannah Duston Cat's Meow wooden plaque with an image of her statue in GAR Park: Available soon, price to be announced
Ceramic coffee mugs: $10 each.
Duston family genealogy books: $40 for a set, or $7.95 to $9.95 per book
Hannah Duston refrigerator magnets featuring images of her statue; the Garrison House, which was raided; and the Hannah Duston monument in Boscawen.: Available soon
On display at Buttonwoods Museum
Hannah Duston pen well
Her ceramic creamer
Her hatchet head, scalping knife and scalp cloth, which she carried scalps in
Duston family association earrings, tie pins and tie clips
Hannah Duston Jim Beam whiskey bottle, circa 1975-1976