Anne Hutchinson was born in Alford, England. The first historical record of this woman who did so much to free women from societal chains is religious. It is the record of her christening on this day July 20, 1591. She may be thought of as the premier American feminist, yet her entire life was linked to the church.
Anne received teenage experience as a midwife, helping her own mother in her later pregnancies. She became skilled at the practice. The mothers and babes she attended had far higher survival rates than usual and this brought her great influence among the women she worked with both in Alford and later when she moved to Massachusetts.
After marriage to William Hutchinson, Anne bore a number of children of her own. Most survived to adulthood, a rarity for the time. She and William fell under the spell of the preaching of John Cotton at Boston, England. On every occasion they found excuses to make the then lengthy trip to hear him. Cotton was preaching several sermons a week, and so they could hope to catch one any time they visited Boston.
Anne's father had taught her as he would a son. He himself had suffered a good deal for his convictions. As she grew older, Anne began to fuse religious and political ideas. Why should not women be as free as men? Queen Elizabeth had proven herself a better ruler than the men who preceded and followed her. Women clearly were not inferior creatures. She pored over scripture and became convinced that God meant woman to be man's equal. Jesus had elevated the status of women by his actions. She came under the spell of the Familists who called for such equality and held that there was no such thing as original sin. Other women sought her for instruction and trusted her because she had a proven track record of assisting them with their dangerous and fearsome pregnancies.
Within a short time of each other, Cotton and the Hutchinsons migrated to America. There Anne, with her women's groups, Familism and unorthodox theology, appeared a threat to the authorities. Her followers became known as Hutchisonians. In part owing to her influence, John Winthrop lost power.
Eventually he put her on trial. She contended strongly in her self-defense, reminding her accusers that the Bible permitted elder women to teach younger. Her groups for women were not in violation of scripture. If some men chose to attend her group, that did not make her wrong. In fact, she added triumphantly, the men of the court by questioning her, were allowing her to teach them. Winthrop, with a packed court (he had called special elections to seat his own followers) banished Anne from the colony.
She joined Roger Williams at Rhode Island and was killed by Indians.
- "Hutchinson, Anne." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Scribner, 1958-1964.
- "Hutchinson, Anne." Encyclopedia of American Biography. Edited by John A. Garraty. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.
- Williams, Selma R. Divine rebel: the life of Anne Marbury Hutchinson. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.
- Wilson, Woodrow. History of the American People. New York: Harper and Bro., 1902. Source of the image.
- Various encyclopedia articles.
Last updated April, 2007.