Anne Hutchinson

From Academic Kids

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Anne_Hutchinson_on_Trial.jpg
"Anne Hutchinson on Trial" by Edwin Austin Abbey

Anne Hutchinson (July 17, 1591August 20, 1643) was the unauthorized Puritan preacher of a dissident church discussion group, and pioneer in Rhode Island and the Bronx.

Hutchinson was born Anne Marbury on July 17, 1591 in Alford, Lincolnshire, England. Her parents were Francis Marbury (1555-1611), a clergyman, and Bridget Dryden (1563-1645).

At the age of 21, she married William Hutchinson. They were part of the Puritan movement, especially following the teachings of John Cotton.

Puritans were being persecuted in England, and they began to migrate to America for freedom. Hutchinson emigrated from England to Massachusetts in 1634, in response to the preacher John Cotton's doing so. She, her husband William, and eight of their children sailed to America on the Griffin. Three other children had been born to them but had died young. Another child was born after they went to America, but he died young also.

Many women in the community respected Hutchinson, largely because of her extensive knowledge of the Bible. She started having discussion sessions about the sermons in her living room. She would explain the sermons to the other women and eventually began adding her own beliefs to her speeches. Eventually men began to come to hear her speak as well.

Hutchinson testified about her own personal closeness with God, which apparently caused the Puritan leaders to consider her arrogant. She went so far as to say that God gave her direct personal messages, which made even John Cotton uncertain about whether he should support her.

Hutchinson emphasized the belief that salvation was by faith alone, which is a typical Protestant belief. Although this doctrine was accepted and taught by Puritans, it was not very compatible with the authoritarian, theocratic system that the Puritan leaders favored, as it tended to make the individual feel that he could govern his own spiritual life and his own relationship with God. She and her followers began to be called Antinomians (see Antinomianism) because of this emphasis on faith rather than obedience to the moral commands of the Bible.

She held to predestination, but preached that it implied good works were futile, and restricting one's behavior was arrogant. She also argued that many of the clergy were not among the "elect", and entitled to no spiritual authority. She challenged assumptions about the proper role of women in Puritan society, and eventually began to openly attack the clergy.

Eventually, John Winthrop decided to take Hutchinson out of power before her influence became too strong among the community's men. After a two-day trial she was banished as a heretic in 1638 and led 60 followers to settle Aquidneck Island in what later became Rhode Island. They founded the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

She later moved yet further from her Boston-based persecutors, to what is now The Bronx in northern New York City.

She died in 1643, with five or six of her children, of scalping by the members of the Siwanoy tribe.

Some critics trace the character of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter to her persecution. Hawthorne may have been symbolizing Hutchinson in the trials and punishment of Prynne.

The Hutchinson River (and thus the Hutchinson River Parkway), in the eastern parts of Bronx and of Westchester County, New York, are her most prominent namesakes; an elementary school in the town of Eastchester (in the southern part of that county) is another.

A statue of Hutchinson stands in front of the State House in Boston, Massachusetts. The inscription on the statue reads:

In Memory of
Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Baptized at Alford
Licolnshire England
20 – July 1595
Killed by the Indians
at East Chester New York 1643
Courageous Exponent
of Civil Liberty
and Religious Toleration.

Three U.S. Presidents (Franklin D. Roosevelt and both Bushes – George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush) are her descendants.

Another descendant, Eve LaPlante, is the author of the latest biography of Anne Hutchinson, AMERICAN JEZEBEL: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans (HarperCollins, 2004).

References:

Kai T. Erikson, Wayward Puritans; A Study in the Sociology of Deviance (1966) [New York: Wiley]

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