Anne Hutchinson came into the world as Anne Marbury in 1591. Her father was a clergyman with the Puritan faith and raised his daughter according to their customs and traditions. She did learn to read and spent much of her free time reading the books in the family library. In 1612 she married William Hutchinson after dating for only a short period of time and he, along with her family, moved to Massachusetts.
Hutchinson was known for her beliefs that women were a blessing from God and not a curse on mankind, as was commonly thought at the time. Anne read the Bible daily and studied it through her own eyes, interpreting passages in different ways than others. She believed that women and men were equal in the eyes of God and should also be equal in the eyes of society. She often claimed that the teachings of the Puritan church were wrong in regards to these issues.
At her home Hutchinson held Bible study sessions for women. The groups discussed the Bible and its meanings, along with their own beliefs in what lessons and ideas it held. Members of her group focused on issues such as prejudice and how it related to their society, in particular the way their culture treated the Native Americans in the area.
As her groups grew larger, Hutchinson began questioning other ideas that went directly against the teachings of their religion. She focused quite a bit on the biblical story of Adam and Eve and her own interpretation of the story. The Puritan church held this in strong regard because it showed that women were the cause of original sin and everything that came later. They believed this was the reason why women weren’t as strong or as good as men.
There are many historians who believe that Hutchinson was persecuted because of her gender. At the time, women were second class citizens and not given the same rights as men. Hutchinson continued to speak out, even when others encouraged her to stay silent. Women weren’t allowed to speak freely and when Hutchinson did this, she showed what women were capable of and some in the area didn’t appreciate that. There was also a fear that as a woman, she could encourage other women to act in a similar manner.
Hutchinson’s downfall came when she began teaching the idea of faith as the sole route to reach salvation. She taught this concept to groups that included both men and women, even though it went directly against the Church. Ministers referred to her as a heretic and a Jezebel, as well as a threat to their culture. In 1638 her trial was started in the General Court of Massachusetts.
At the time of her trial, Hutchinson was pregnant for the fifteenth time and 46 years-old. Interrogators asked her numerous questions about her life, as she stood in front of them for days at a time. They claimed she broke the Fifth Commandment and tried to convince her that she was a blasphemer. The trial ended with the Court voting to banish her. They forced her to stay at home under close watch as they prepared a second religious trial. This trial found her a blasphemer and excommunicated her from the Church.
After the trial Hutchinson moved to Portsmouth, Rhode Island with a large group of Puritan dissenters. She lost the child she was carrying and still found herself fighting with the Puritan Church. They often sent men to her home in an attempt to show her the error of her ways. She then helped her husband become governor of their colony. After her husband’s death in 1643, she led a group of followers west where she and most of her family were killed by a group of Native Americans who didn’t trust their good intentions.
Resources on Hutchinson include:
Hutchinson left behind a lasting impression because she symbolized religious freedom. She was also an early proponent of women’s rights and one of the first people to show the struggle women faced. In addition, she helped found the Rhode Island colony and showed the showed the problems in the church. The Hutchinson River in New York as well as several memorial sites were named after her and in 1987 she was officially pardoned by the Governor of Massachusetts.
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