Women's Activism NYC

Anne Hutchinson

1591 - 1643

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Born around 1591 in England, Anne Marybury Hutchinson is the daughter of dissent minister Francis Marbury and Bridget Dryden. At a young age, her father taught her scripture. Like many women of her era, she had no formal education; however, Hutchinson was an avid reader and thinker. Hutchinson was forty-three years old when she arrived in Boston in 1634. Trained as a midwife, Hutchinson developed strong ties to local women and began holding meetings with them in her home to discuss Cotton’s sermons. Gradually, the discussions became even more serious and impactful. One topic discussed was the critiques of Puritan beliefs about the Covenant of Works—the role of good works and adherence to religious law in salvation. Soon, her meetings became popular with both men and women. But Hutchinson’s popularity disturbed religious leaders who were the authorities in the theocratic Bay Colony. Hutchinson was tried in 1637 for heresy. But the real issue was her defiance of gender roles—particularly that she presumed authority over men in her preaching. It was also the fact that she overstepped her position as a woman during that period; the higher authorities feared she would inspire other women to rebel. At a time when men ruled, it was the social norm for a woman to remain silent. Yet, Hutchinson asserted her right to preach, which her husband supported. However, her former mentor, Reverend Cotton, turned on her, describing her meetings as a “promiscuous and filthy coming together of men and women….” During the trial, she went against the authorities. She said she had received a direct revelation from God and could interpret the scriptures herself. The claim caused her to be excommunicated and banished from the colony in March 1638. She is considered one of the earliest American feminists; Anne Hutchinson was a spiritual leader in colonial Massachusetts who challenged the male authority—and, indirectly, acceptable gender roles—by preaching to both women and men and questioning Puritan teachings about salvation. Today a river and a highway in Long Island South bear the Hutchinson name.

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