A Woman to Know: Anne Hutchinson

As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway. — Anne Hutchinson

(image via Library of Congress)


Anne Hutchinson's path to infamy started innocently enough: with a women's Bible study group in the fledgling Massachusetts colony. But within a few years, the women moved on from discussing verse and scripture to debating tenets of their Puritan faith -- and challenging the men who enforced it. Anne herself became the most vocal of these "Antimonians," or questioners: she publicly defended the rights of Native Americans, poked holes in church doctrine and even helped another woman bury her stillborn fetus in the dead of night, so that she would not be accused of witchcraft and banished to the wilderness.

But once the rulers of the colony got wind of Anne's little meetings -- and the radical feminist philosophies espoused in her house -- they accused her of heresy. In 1637, they put her on trial. She stood in the courthouse, pregnant, refusing to back down on her assertions of independence because, she claimed, God Himself had communicated them to her via divine vision.

The trial transcripts themselves are absolutely riveting (not joking! they are! even today!). But on Day 3, Anne lost her case. Banished from the colony, Anne and her followers (plus Anne's 15 children) journeyed through the snow to Rhode Island. Just a few decades later, the Hutchinson family died in the Bronx, in an attack from the neighboring Native American tribe.

In 1987, more than three centuries after her salacious trial, the Massachusetts hovernor pardoned Anne Hutchinson. Today, her statue stands outside the Massachusetts State House, dedicated to "the courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious tolerance."

P.S. Meant to mention this at the very start of Women's History Month but blah: For every one of you who shares this link or suggests a woman I should feature, I'm donating $1 to Project Continua. Respond to this newsletter or tweet me at @juliaccarpenter with any comments/questions!

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