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Anne Hutchinson née MARBURY (baptized July 20, 1591, Alford, Lincolnshire, Eng.--d. August or September 1643, Pelham Bay, N.Y.) is a noted religious liberal who pioneered the principles of civil liverty and religious freedom. After her trial on charges of heresy and subsequent banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, she became one of the founders of Rhode Island. One of her descendants, Thomas Hutchinson, would become governor of Massachusetts.

Early life

Born the daughter of a the Reverend Francis Marbury and Bridget Dryden in 1591, Anne Marbury married William Hutchinson, a merchant in London in 1612. She and her husband followed the Reverend John Lothrop to Boston in 1634 in search of religious tolerance. Her husband would go on to become one of Boston's leading citizens of the time. Anne Hutchinson had two useful sets of skills to offer the colony---her invaluable knowledge of midwifery and her training in theological discussion.

Of the latter, Hutchinson is well noted. One contemporary admirer reported said, according to Gomes, "I'll bring you to a woman who preaches better gospel than any of your black-coats who have been at the ninnyversity, a woman of another kind of spirit who has had many revelations of things to come....I had rather such a one who speaks from the mere notion of the Spirit without any study at all than any of your learned scholars."

Religious criticism

"As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway. He who has God's grace in his heart cannot go astray."
---Anne Hutchinson

Anne Hutchinson's conflict with the colony's puritan religious establishment began with a series of Bible-study classes. Hutchinson invited her friends and neighbors---women, at first---to discuss in her home the literal words of the Bible. She may have also discussed the teachings of charismatic local minister, the Reverend John Cotton, according to one historian although other sources suggest the colony banished Reverend Cotton around the time of her arrival in Massachusetts.

At some point in her Bible study classes, Hutchinson moved beyond a straight-forward discussion of the Biblical text to a more controversial practice of commenting on the pulpit teachings of the established religious hierarchy. As word of her teachings spread, he accrewed new followers, among them men like Sir Henry Vane, who would become the governor of the colony in 1636. Contemporary reports suggest that upwards of eighty people attended her home Bible study meetings. Only contradictory information is available on how many indiviudals attended the officially sanctioned sermons at the time.

Hutchinson, Vane and John Cotton may have attempted, according to some historical accounts, to have the parish minister, the Reverend John Wilson, replaced with her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright. In 1937, Vane lost the governorship to John Winthrop, who "considered her a threat to his 'city set on a hill'," according to Gomes, and who described her meetsings as beign a "thing not tolerable nor comely in teh sight of God, nor fitting for your sex."

Hutchinson publicly justified her comments on pulpit teachings, against contemporary religious morays, as being authorized by 'an inner spiritual truth.' Govenror Winthrop and the established religious heirarchy considered her comments to be heretical, unfounded criticism from an unauthorized member of the clergy. They accused Hutchinson of blashemy and of lewd conduct. She was put on trial, found guilty and eventually banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

She and several dozen followers relocated to Rhode Island and then later to Long Island sound where she and all her children save one were killed during Native American attack on their settlement.

Historical context

One interpretation of the events of Anne Hutchinson's life is through the lens of power politic, that is to say, Hutchinson suffered from her growing influence over her fellow parisionners rather from the content of her teachings. In his article on Anne Hutchinson in Forerunner magazine, Jay Rogers says as much with the comment that her teaching was not "antithetical to what the puritans believed at all. What began as the quibbling over fine points of Christian doctrine ended as a confrontation over the role of authority in the colony." Hutchinson did criticize the established religious authorities, as did many other individuals, but she did so with a succesful following.

Another interpretation of events suggests that political manuevering alone did not do in Anne Hutchinson; she fell victim to contemporary morays surrounding the role of women in society. She spoke her mind in a male heirarchy unaccustomed to outspoken women. She welcomed men into her home, an unusual act, however innocent, within a Puritan society. It may also be noteworthy that Hutchinson shared the profession---midwifery---that of many of the accused in the Salem witch trials of 1692, forty years after her death.

See also

  • Puritanism
  • Feminism
  • Harvard College
  • Religious tolerance

  • References

  • 'Anne Hutchinson, Brief life of Harvard's "midwife": 1595-1643', Harvard Magazine, November-December 2002, Reverend Peter J. Gomes
  • [ Transcripts of the Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson at the Court of Newton in 1637
  • Anne Hutchinson on Rootsweb

  • External links

  • Anne Hutchinson Official Site

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