Anne Hutchinson

Anne Hutchinson has long been seen as a strong religious dissenter who paved the way for religious freedom in the strictly Puritan environment of New England. Another interpretation of the controversy surrounding Anne Hutchinson asserts that she was simply a loving wife and mother whose charisma and personal ideas were misconstrued to be a radical religious movement. Since this alleged religious movement was led by a woman, it was quickly dealt with by the Puritan fathers as a real threat. Whatever her motives, she was clearly a great leader in the cause of religious toleration in America and the advancement of women in society. Although Anne Hutchinson is historically documented to have been banished as a religious dissenter, the real motive for her persecution was that she challenged the traditional subordinate role of women in Puritan society by expressing her own religious convictions.
Anne Hutchinson was born Anne Marbury in Alford, England, in 1591. Anne\'s father was a deacon at Christ Church, Cambridge. Francis Marbury spoke out earnestly about his convictions that many of the ordained ministers in the Church of England were unfit to guide people\'s souls. For this act of defiance, he was put in jail for one year. Undaunted, Francis Marbury continued to voice his radical opinions, including that many ministers were appointed haphazardly by high church officials to preach in any manner they wanted. Eventually, Anne\'s father did restrain his verbal attacks on the Church of England, choosing conformity with an imperfect church over constant arrests and inquisitions. (D. Crawford, Four Women in a Violent Time, pps. 11-15.) Being educated at home, Anne read many of her father\'s books on theology and religion. Much of Anne\'s later independence and willingness to speak out was due to her father\'s example. Anne admired her father for his defiance of traditional church principles. She was always fascinated with theological questions such as the fate of the Indians who had no knowledge of Jesus Christ or salvation. Her childhood was a definite factor in the development of the strong, self-assured woman she grew up to be.
Anne Hutchinson lived in Alford, England as a housewife and mother after she was married at the age of twenty-one to a man named Will Hutchinson. Anne was drawn to a certain minister named John Cotton who preached fiery sermons that were originally Protestant in nature, but gradually became more akin to Puritan doctrines in that he preached purification of the church and focused on the corruption of the current establishment. Puritans were a form of Protestants in the sense that they rebelled against the Catholic Church, but they also believed the current system still needed more change. Cotton\'s two main beliefs were the destructiveness of continuing Catholic influence in the Church of England, and the opportunities for success and religious freedom in America. (D. Crawford, p. 26.) The Hutchinson family, which eventually consisted of 15 children, took the long drive from Alford to Boston (England) often on Sundays to hear Reverend Cotton preach. After 20 years of village life in Alford, the Hutchinsons decided to follow their minister to New England in 1634. One main reason for this move was because Anne wanted to feel free to express her increasingly Puritan views under the leadership of John Cotton. (M.J. Lewis, Portraits of American Women, p. 35.) Unfortunately, Massachusetts turned out to be more religiously constrictive than England for Anne, even as a member of the Puritan church.
At the time of Anne\'s youth in England, the official religion was Protestantism under the Church of England. Puritanism developed in the late Sixteenth Century from the split in Protestantism between those who were satisfied with traditional methods and those who thought the way of worship needed purification. This second group, the Puritans, thought that worship needed to be simpler with fewer sacraments and rites. The battle lines were drawn, and the Puritan Revolution in England began. In the twelve years before 1642, 21,000 Puritans moved to New England (B. Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America, pps. 25-26.) for the purpose of establishing a haven for them to practice Puritanism together. Anne Hutchinson lived in this violent and changing time when the established religion was often questioned, and groups of people came to their own conclusions on points