The Threat of Anne Hutchinson
What had Anne Hutchinson done?
Why was Anne Hutchinson such a threat to the Massachusetts Bay colony?
How was Anne Hutchinson's trial an ordeal for her and how was it an ordeal for
Anne Hutchinson, for centuries now, has been seen as a woman who
paved the way for religious freedom. She was a great leader in the cause for
religious toleration in America and the advancement of women in society. Anne
Hutchinson was "a magnetic woman of extraordinary talent and intellect" as well
as a woman "who quickly gained respect among Boston's women as a midwife,
healer, and spiritual counselor" (AP, p. 92).
Although Hutchinson is documented to have been banished as a religious
dissenter, the real motive for her persecution was that she challenged the
submissive role of women in Puritan society by standing up and expressing her
own religious convictions.
Anne Hutchinson seemed destined for banishment from the Puritan
Church and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She had a strong demeanor, no doubt
from the 14 children she bore to her husband William, and possessed an avid
interest in religion and theology. Add to this the influence of John Cotton, and the
fact that her father and brother-in-law had been banished from their respective
colonies, and you certainly see the role fate played in her life.
When the Hutchinson's arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634,
they were received with open arms. With the prosperity of William, and Anne's
background of medicine and nursing, it is no surprise they were welcome
additions to the community. This, however, was short lived. Anne had high
expectations, originally, for finally having the freedom to express her beliefs away
from the Church of England. However, once the Hutchinson's settled, she found
no religious freedom at all in Massachusetts Bay Colony. The roles of men and
women married under the Puritan religion were clearly defined. Although looked
at as equals in the eyes of God, the wives were "expected to help with and
supplement their husband's public activities" (D, p. 33). This is where I feel
Anne Hutchinson found herself out of favor with Colonial Governor John
Winthrop. Winthrop, who would oversee the trial of Hutchinson, seemed to be an
extremist of sorts when it came to the role of women under the Puritan religion.
He believed "women should be submissive and supportive" and that "there was
ample support for his position in the Bible" (D, p. 33). The fact that Hutchinson
began to reveal her own religious beliefs at her weeknight meetings held in her
home was out-of-line with practices of others due to the accusations that men
were present at the meetings. This was forbidden under Puritan law. Women
were allowed to teach other women, almost always younger girls, but were strictly
forbidden against revealing the beliefs or sermons to men. Remember, alone,
Anne was not a threat to the Puritan...