Anne Hutchinson was born Anne Marbury in 1591 in Alford, England. Her father, Francis Marbury, was an official in a church in Cambridge. He was not content with the Church. He declared publicly that many of the church ministers were not fit to guide people’s souls, and for that, he was jailed for a year. Even so, he continued verbally attacking the Church, claiming that high church officials freely appointed whoever they wanted, and those people were not usually qualified for their positions. Tired of constant arrests and inquisitions, he finally chose conformity and calmed down.
Anne spent a lot of time reading her father’s books on theology and religion. She admired his defiance of traditional church principles. She was also fascinated with theological questions like those about the fate of the Native Americans, who did not know about salvation. When she was twenty-one, she married a man named Will Hutchinson and became known as Anne Hutchinson. She also became a mother to fifteen children. There was a minister, John Cotton, who she always admired. He was originally a Protestant, but as time passed he leaned more and more toward Puritan beliefs. Like her father, he spoke about the corruption in the clergy and called for the purification of the Church.
He recognized the destructive influence of the Catholic Church on the Church of England and talked about opportunities for religious freedom in America. Anne Hutchinson’s family went to Reverend Cotton’s church every Sunday to hear his preachings. Eventually, John Cotton’s dream came true, and he was able to cross the Atlantic Ocean and come to New England. In 1634, Anne Hutchinson took her family and followed him to Massachusetts. She wanted to express her increasingly Puritanic views, and she wished to be once again part of John Cotton’s congregation. During her voyage to America, she assembled groups of women to discuss religion. She spoke of her views and became known as a radical.
She even claimed that God had revealed to her knowledge of the day of their arrival. Out of sheer coincidence, or for some other unknown reason, she guessed it correctly as September 18, 1634. To her great surprise, New England turned out to be more religiously constrictive than England ever was for her. She was not welcomed warmly by John Cotton because of her unorthodox views. He told her that it would be best for her if she would withhold from speaking about her views. As a prerequisite for her acceptance into the Puritan Church, she had to accept that she was guilty of wrong thinking on the ship that God had not really revealed to her the day of their arrival and that it was a mere guess.
She compromised, but in her mind she still held on to her views. She believed that faith alone could bring salvation. She also believed that all people could talk to and receive an answer from God if they would listen. She once said that she felt that nothing important could happen if it was not revealed to her by God beforehand. Seeing the apprehension of the Church and the community at her views, she only expressed them in the privacy of her own home where she sometimes assembled women to share her ideas with. She was never in open defiance of the Church. Although she disagreed with some of its principles, she was still a devoted member. John Cotton also understood the harsh regime of the Puritan Church and it’s toleration of nonconformity.
He once said that in New England, members of the Church suffered for having a mind of their own. There was another prominent religious figure in New England. His name was John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. His dream was to found a city where the Puritan religion would be followed with utmost devotion. He sincerely believed in the inferiority of women to men. He also believed that a woman who devoted herself to reading and writing had lost her understanding and reason. He wrote that women should leave the intellectual work to men, whose minds are stronger. He urged them to honor and keep the place that God had set for them, which was to look out for the household. John Winthrop did not look favorably at Anne Hutchinson and her conferences with other women.
He supported a resolution passed by the assembly in 1637, which forbade female assemblies of more than 60 people. Anne Hutchinson was arrested for violating that law and brought to trial. The trial was not fair or just, and no legal safeguards were observed. John Winthrop earnestly called for her banishment, calling her a heretic and an American Jezebel. He was comparing her to a character from the Old Testament, a woman who killed God’s prophets and was finally eaten by dogs for her wickedness. Anne defended herself by quoting from the Holy Scriptures but in vain.
She was excommunicated from the Church and cast out of Massachusetts. She and her family traveled south and eventually settled in a place called Hell Gate, in Rhode Island. It was not long before her settlement was attacked by Native Americans. They burned her house and massacred all of her family, except her youngest daughter. In this tragic way, Anne Hutchinson, a religious Puritan from New England died for her religious beliefs. After being informed of Anne’s fate, John Winthrop felt no remorse. He later wrote in his diary — God’s hand is apparently seen herein, to pick out this woeful woman, to make her an unheard-of heavy example. Appropriate that the massacre took place at this ‘Hell Gate’. Proud Jezebel has at last been cast Bibliographybritanica online