Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” was first published in 1985. It’s set in a bleak future where Christian theocrats take over the United States and force some women — called handmaids — to bear children for infertile couples.

When Margaret Atwood was writing the book, she took inspiration from, among other things, the rise of the Christian right in America during the 1970s and '80s, the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 and, much less well-known, a woman in 17th century New England named Mary Webster, who was one of the people she dedicated the book to, and whom she later wrote a poem about.

Atwood and professor Bridget Marshall tell us the story of Webster, who is better known as Half-Hanged Mary.

You can hear the full poem, read by actress Kristen DiMercurio, here:

(Originally aired April 27, 2017)

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