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Anne Marbury Hutchinson
(Her Life and Times)

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


One of the most famous of early colonial settlers, Anne Marbury Hutchinson was a 9th great grandmother of Winfield Dyer Gallup who used her considerable influence as a woman to defy the intolerant religious law of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This was something of an irony considering that many settlers of that colony had left England because of religious intolerance. Some twentieth century historians credit her with being the first American woman to lead the public fight for religious diversity and female equality. In his 1971 biography, Eleanor and Franklin, Joseph P. Lash reported that Eleanor Roosevelt began her list of America's greatest women with Anne Marbury Hutchinson.

Anne was the daughter of Reverend Francis Marbury, a loyal minister to the Anglican Church, and Bridget Dryden, an 11th great grandchild of King Edward the First of England. Anne was born in 1591 in Alford, Lincolnshire, England. On August 9th in 1612 in London she married William Hutchinson, a merchant. They sailed to America together in 1634 aboard the ship "Griffin" as members of Reverend John Lothrop's group but the Hutchinsons were following a reform minister, the Rev. John Cotton, who had come to America a year earlier. Anne was particularly distressed at Cotton's leaving England remarking that it had been "a great trouble to me...I could not be at rest but I must come hither." They settled in Boston and ultimately had 15 children.

Anne had grown up in a religious climate during the reign of Elizabeth and James the First, a time of persecution of the Catholics and Separatists. Her father had been imprisoned twice for preaching against the incompetence of English ministers, though he later became the rector of St. Martin's Vintry, London, rector of St. Pancras, Soper Lane, and finally rector of St. Margaret's, New Fish Street. He was holding two of these offices simultaneously when he died in 1611.

Anne was popular among the women in Massachusetts Bay, whom she sometimes served as midwife. Boston was a fairly severe place with an oppressive religious climate dominated by the Puritan Church which saw the Bible as the source of all law, and its ministers emphasized everyone's pious duty to pray, fast and discipline oneself.

Noting that the male members of Boston's church met regularly after sermons to discuss the Bible, Anne gathered a group of woman that would meet in her home and discuss issues of religion. Though her meetings initially centered on interpretation of the previous Sunday's sermon by Rev. Cotton or the Rev. John Wilson, it wasn't long before Anne began telling her listeners of her own, quite different, beliefs as a basis for analysis and criticism of the sermons. The nature of Anne's criticism of the established church revolved around their idea of salvation by works or deeds. She believed in salvation by grace, and therefore that one could not prepare to be saved. She attracted hundreds of women - aided by her reputation as a skilled midwife - and many influential men of the Massachusetts Bay colony listened to her and became followers as well. As many as eighty people filled her house, including "some of the magistrates, some gentlemen, some scholars and men of learning.". Among these were Sir Henry Vane who had become governor of the colony in 1636 and Anne's husband William who had been elected a judge in Massachusetts Bay in 1635 and a deputy in 1636.

The pace of Anne's religious zeal accelerated. With her friend and associate, Mary Barrett Dyer, she walked out on a sermon by the Rev. John Wilson in Boston urging others to do the same when the ministers swayed from "the true course." Her criticism of the established church was becoming a threat to all levels of authority in Massachusetts Bay Colony because she denied that conformity with the religious laws were a sign of godliness and insisted that true godliness came from inner experience of the Holy Spirit. This was essentially a denial of the very foundation upon which rested the legitimacy of colony authority. What was more, she directed her criticism at the personal level by claiming that only two Boston ministers were "elect" or saved, John Cotton and her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright.

Emboldened by the importance and influence of many of her followers, with the aid of Governor Vane and John Cotton and supported by most of the congregation, she attemped to have Wheelwright installed as minister of the Boston church. This drove the pastor of the church, Reverend John Wilson, to gave a speech on the "inevitable dangers of separation" caused by her religious dissensions, and he joined with John Winthrop in opposing her. Their fear for the political stability of the colony was about to elevate the issue far beyond a mere difference of opinion on a religious issue.

The situation certainly became more dire when Wheelwright denounced the ministers and said that the wrath of God would descend on Massachusetts Bay unless there were changes. His outburst was claimed to be seditious and he was put on trial. Anne and about seventy of her followers signed a petition opposing Wheelwright's conviction but the signatories were forced to give up their weapons and were threatened with banishment from the colony.

Ultimately, as the risk grew that the Massachusetts Bay colony might split apart, there came to be the accusation from her detractors that Anne and her followers were "Antinomians". While the literal meaning of the term is "against law", it is actually a theological doctrine that by faith and God's gift of grace through the gospel a Christian is freed not only from the Old Testament law of Moses and all forms of legalism but also from all law including the generally accepted standards of morality prevailing in any given culture. This was a vast and probably undeserved expansion of Anne's belief as she and her followers did not really argue to extend their cause beyond a return to the fundamental ideas of John Calvin, i.e., their belief that grace was more important than works.

In May 1637, Vane lost the governorship to John Winthrop. To prevent new Antinomians from settling, Winthrop imposed a restriction on immigrants, among them Anne's brother and several of her friends. In August, eighty-two "heresies" committed by the Antinomians were read at a synod. This was followed by a move to discipline her and her numerous followers in Boston through a ban placed on all private meetings, but Wheelwright continued to preach and Anne now held her meetings twice a week - And matters were about to be taken to another whole level of trouble for Anne.

In November, Winthop and his supporters filed heresy charges against Anne and Wheelwright, who were then put on trial before a meeting of the General Court. Intending to prove that Anne's behavior was immoral, Winthrop described her meetings as "a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex," and accused her of breaking the Fifth Commandment by not honoring her father and mother (in this case, the magistrates of the colony). As the trial proceeded Anne parried all questions so well that Edmund S. Morgan, a biographer of Gov. John Winthrop, was led to comment that Anne Hutchinson was the governor's "intellectual superior in everything except political judgment; in everything except the sense of what was possible in this world." Answering deftly, Anne came close to clearing herself of all charges but, carried away with her own enthusiasm, she made a costly mistake in judgement.

Suddenly, Anne mentioned that several revelations had come to her. The Lord revealed himself to her, she said, "upon a Throne of Justice, and all the world appearing before him, and though I must come to New England, yet I must not fear nor be dismaied," she said. "Therefore, take heed. For I know that for this that you goe about to doe unto me," she threatened, "God will ruin you and your posterity, and this whole State." Winthop immediately replied, "I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion." The court voted to banish her from the colony, "as being a woman not fit for our society". Wheelwright was exiled and shortly left for New Hamphire while Anne was put under house arrest for the winter to await a church trial in the spring.

Anne was brought to trial before the elders of the church of Boston on the Ides of March, 1638. Her sons and sons-in-law tried to speak on her behalf but John Cotton cautioned them against "hindering" the work of God in healing her soul. To the women of the congretation he said to be careful in listening to her, "for you see she is but a woman and many unsound and dayngerous Principles are held by her."

Once her friend, Cotton now turned to attack her meetings as a "promiscuous and filthie coming together of men and women without Distinction of Relation of Marriage," and accused her of believing in free love. "Your opinions frett like a Gangrene and spread like a Leprosie, and will eate out the very Bowells of Religion."

Then Reverend Wilson, whom she had once tried to evict from the Boston church, delivered her excommunication. "I doe cast you out and in the name of Christ I doe deliver you up to Satan, that you may learne no more to blaspheme, to seduce, and to lye." To which Anne retorted "The Lord judgeth not as man judgeth. Better to be cast out of the church than to deny Christ."
Banished from Boston, in the autumn of 1637, under the leadership of William Coddington and John Clarke, Anne Hutchinson left Boston with her thirteen children and sixty followers with the intention of settling on Delaware Bay. During their journey they called on Roger Williams who had himself been banished from Massachusetts Bay in 1636, establishing a settlement at Providence, and were treated with such winning hospitality that they accepted his invitation to settled in the land of the Narragansetts. With his help they bought the island of Aquidneck (Peaceable Island) from the Sachems of the Narragansett Indian tribe, Canonicus and Miantonomah. The price was 40 fathoms of white beads, 10 coats and 20 hoes. The first settlement was to be around the Town Pond in the vicinity of the Bay Pointe Inn today. (Part of this pond still exists in that area, but the bay side was filled in during the 1940's) Here they laid the foundation of a new town, Pocasset, the Indian name for that locality, near the north end of the island and on March 7, 1638 the group gathered and agreed to the following Compact for their new colony:

"We whose names are underwritten do here solemnly in the presence of Jehovah incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick and as he shall help, will submit our person, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and all those perfect and most absolute laws of his given us in his holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby."

Among those signing the Compact were William Coddington, one of the richest men in Boston, Dr. John Clarke, Samuel Gorton and William Hutchinson. Here they established that colony's first civil government. A year later the name "Portsmouth" was given to the settlement at a meeting in January of 1639.

The first recorded town meeting at Portsmouth was on March 13, 1638. There the construction of the first meeting house was authorized. This colony was led by William Coddington and, to a degree, the spiritual leadership of Anne Hutchinson. They, along with Samuel Gorton, each had their own followers.

The Portsmouth colony was based more on farming than on religion. Large farms were laid out early and commercial crops, especially corn, peas, beans and tobacco were grown and livestock was raised. It was not easy to be admitted as a freeman in this colony, because the increase in their numbers meant a potential reduction in the size of the existing farms.

Farming on Aquidneck Island was successful from the beginning, and it soon became evident that it would be necessary to develop a port to ship produce out. In addition, there developed religious differences between some of the leaders of the colony.

William Coddington had been a very wealthy man in Boston and among the political leaders there. He had been a member of the Boston Court that had expelled Roger Williams. Coddington was, in William's view "a worldly man" who was most concerned about his own profit and power. He later was to adopt the religious beliefs of the Quakers.

Because of the need for a deep water port and the religious differences, Coddington, Clarke, Nicholas Easton, William Baulston and five other leaders of the Portsmouth colony moved south in 1639 and established Newport. By the end of that first year, 93 people were residents of Newport, and its numbers were growing dramatically. Meanwhile in Portsmouth, William Hutchinson was elected leader of the settlement. He seemed to be a mild mannered man dominated by his wife, Anne. He was elected assistant to Governor Coddington of the Rhode Island Colony in 1640 and died in 1642.

In early 1643, Anne, afraid that the Massachusetts Bay authorities would try to gain control of the Portsmouth settlement, took her children, except for five of the eldest, to the Dutch Colony of New Netherlands (New York), settling at Pelham Bay (the Bronx today). Because the Dutch had antagonized nearby Indians that year, the Indians rose up and attacked settlements beyond the walled protection of New Amsterdam (New York City). Only a few months after Anne's arrival, fifteen Dutchmen were killed in a battle between Mahicans and the Mohawks and in August of 1643 the Mahicans raided the Hutchinson house, slaughtering Anne and five of her youngest children. Only one young daughter who was present, Susanna, survived as a captive. Many older sources recorded that all of Anne's children except her daughter, Susanna, were killed with her but this is now known to be untrue. Sons Edward, Richard and Samuel were not present, nor were her eldest daughters, Faith and Bridget, most of whom have left numerous descendants.

Not all researchers believe this was just a random Indian attack. One such person writes: "Strong circumstantial evidence suggests that their settlement near New Amsterdam was too opportune a target to miss: Anne Hutchinson and her associates could not be brought back into the fold; their wealth, stability, and reputation strengthened the Dutch and would attract followers; a violent death at the hands of "savages" would be a powerful deterent to others and would promote the ruin of the Dutch plantation. Depicted as divine justice by the pulpit and in letters to England, such a death could help repair the Bay's reputation among Enlgish supporters and investors. The massacre took place sometime in the early fall of 1643. One contemporary description of the massacre survives in a propaganda tract published in England a decade later by Edward Johnson, a Bay military leader. 'The Grand Mistress of them all, ' he wrote, 'who ordinarily prated every Sabbath day ... withdrew her self, her husband, and her family also, to a more remote place;... The Indians in those parts forewarned them of making their abode there; yet this could be no warning to them, but still they continued, being amongst a multitude of Indians, boasted they were become all one Indian; and indeed, this woman, who had the chief rule of all the roost, being very bold in her strange revelations and misapplications, tells them, though all nations and people were cut off round about them, yet should not they; till on a day certain Indians coming to her house, discoursing with them, they wished to tie up her dogs, for they much bit them. The woman, not mistrusting the Indians guile, did so; the which no sooner done, but they cruelly murdered her, taking one of their daughters away with them, and another of them seeking to escape is caught, as she was getting over a hedge, and they drew her back again by the hair of the head to the stump of a tree, and there cut off her head with a hatchet; the other that dwelt by them betook them to boat, and fled, to tell the sad news.'

The impression Johnson created and the details he chose are consistent with the most probably facts and inconsistent with the claim that Anne Hutchinson and her family were the victims of a random Indian raid. A likely reconstruction is that Johnson was a participant, for his narrative is filled with revealing details. The Bay government, not the Indians, warned against going to the Dutch. Raiding Indians do not walk up to "discourse" with their victims, nor do victims mindlessly tie their guard dogs. The settlers must have had good reason for trust; either they knew the Indians or the English who must have been with them. How else could Johnson know such particulars as a woman's trying to escape over a hedge being pulled back by her hair to a stump and decapitated with a hatchet? If no English were with the Indians, Johnson's story had to come from "the other" who "took them to boat" to tell the "sad news". But Winthrop claimed in his journal that none survived, that sixteen were killed, including two men in a boat who came to help. John Underhill, who had been a member of the dissenting party in Boston and had a settlement nearby, wrote that only nine, all in the families of Hutchinson and Collins, were massacred. The child taken hostage, Anne Hutchinson's eight-year-old daughter, cannot have been the source because she had forgotten how to speak English when she was returned years later. (Winthrop neglected to mention in his journal account that his October 1643 Court recorded but did not act on a request by Bay relatives and friends of the murdered families to ransom the child - a request that strongly suggests Winthrop knew which Indians had her.)"

The site of Anne's house and the scene of her murder is within the limits of New York City in what is now Pelham Bay Park. Not far from the site, beside the road, is a large glacial boulder popularly called Split Rock from its natural division into two parts. The line of vision through the split towards the Hutchinson River at the foot of the hill will very nearly cross the site of the house. In 1911 a bronze tablet to the memory of Anne Hutchinson was placed on Split Rock by the Society of Colonial Dames of the State of New York, who recognized that the resting place of this most noted woman of her time was well worthy of such a memorial. The tablet bears the following inscription:

Banished From the Massachusetts Bay Colony
In 1638
Because of Her Devotion to Religious Liberty
This Courageous Woman
Sought Freedom From Persecution
In New Netherland
Near This Rock in 1643 She and Her Household
Were Massacred by Indians
This Table is placed here by the
Colonial Dames of the State of New York
Anno Domini MCMXI
Virtutes Majorum Fillae Conservant

In April, 1996, Anne Hutchinson was honored by the dedication of a plaque placed at Founders Brook Park on Aquidneck Island (Portsmouth), Rhode Island.

To The Memory Of
1591 - 1643
Wife, Mother, Midwife, Visionary
Spiritual Leader and Original Settler
April 1996

The plaque is the work of the Anne Hutchinson Memorial Committee, a group of Aquidneck Island volunteers led by Valerie DeBrule of Newport, who raised funds to pay for the plaque and surrounding medicinal herb garden. The occasion was marked by the newspaper article "Anne Hutchinson - Finally the Honor She Deserves", by James Garman. Mr. Garman writes in part:

"Anne Hutchinson played a vital role in the founding of a settlement at the northern end of Aquidneck Island that came to be known as Portsmouth.

"According to local historian Edward H. West, residents of this state should realize the debt they owe Anne Hutchinson for "without her there would never have been a Rhode Island." While this accolade might be just a bit overdrawn, she did play an important role in the colony's founding… She was the lightning rod that attracted some of the most prominent men of Boston. It is noteworthy that although it was for religious reasons that they came here, there developed such differences that it does not appear they constructed a church of any kind. It is known that Anne Hutchinson continued to hold religious services in her home while at Portsmouth.

"There are differing opinions as to Anne's influence in Rhode Island. Edward West, writing in 1939, said, "While it is to Anne Hutchinson that the credit of the founding of Rhode lsland must be given, for it was the quality of her disarmed followers that led to the founding of a separate colony . . . more or less it is to William Coddington that the credit of the actual founding of the colony must be made, as it was through his wealth and influence . . . that other men of influence settled there."

"In spite of this, however, the important role of Anne Hutchinson cannot be denied. After all it was she who led a group of her supporters to Aquidneck Island. She was a dynamic person, a woman of great faith and one whom others were willing to follow to this island in the wilderness.

"She is worthy of being honored and the plaque being dedicated to her on April 27 is, in fact, a little more than three hundred years overdue".

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The above was compiled and integrated from the following sources:
Anne Marbury Hutchinson, Susanne Behling, compilation / essay, website
Anne Hutchinson - Finally the Honor She Deserves, James Garman; article, Sakonnet Times, April 25, 1996
Divine Rebel; Williams, Selma R.; Holt, Rinehart & Winston, NY, 1981
Demeter's Daughters, Women Who Founded America, 1587-1787; Williams, Selma R; pub. 1975
The English Ancestry of Anne Marbury Hutchinson and Katherine Marbury Scott; Colket, Meredith B.; The Mager Press, Phildelphia, PA; 1936
The Hutchinson Family of England and New England, and its Connection with the Marburys and Drydens; Joseph Lemuel; NEHGR Vol. XX, Oct. 1866

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