Anne Hutchinson Essay
In the Boston Public Library stands a bronze statue of Anne Hutchinson – one of the most influential figures in the American colonial history. The monument represents the woman’s personality to its full. The close view of the sculpture reveals a number of important details. Anne Hutchinson holds the Bible with one hand, while the other one rests on the shoulder of a child. She lifts her head into the sky, as if looking for God’s protection and support. At the same moment her face expresses sheer bliss, calmness and happiness. Despite it is bronze, the statue seems alive. It displays intense depth of woman’s emotions that attract the viewer’s attention to the person so skillfully portrayed by a famous American sculptor Cyrus Edwin Dallin.
Anne Hutchinson’s role in the history is highly influential. Hutchinson was the active defender of the female rights, in the religious affairs in particular. It is worth mentioning that the religious conflicts in the European countries at the beginning of the seventeenth century had forced many Europeans to move to the American colonies. The majority of the immigrants were Puritans who “based their theology loosely on the Church of England” (Foner, Garathy 17). These people “sought religious guidance in order to regulate all aspects of their lives, and thus basing much of their legal judgments on the Bible” (Foner, Garathy 19).
The person under discussion was one of the first who insisted on the women’s capacity to participate in the matters which were considered as purely male ones. As a consequence, she was the first who raised the question about the equal treatment for men and women. The majority of women of the first American colonies worked in the fields growing corn, tobacco and other important crops. In such a hard work “crude hand tools of wood and iron were used, but most farming activity involved intensive hand labor for the entire family, growing crops at subsistence level with the small surplus traded to pay taxes and buy consumer goods” (Foner, Garathy 50). Men did not fairly value the women’s pains and treated them as the weakest members of their communities. Nevertheless, the religious conflict which lasted from 1636 to 1638 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (also known as the Antinomian Controversy) gave new meaning to the women’s role. It had certainly changed the future course of the history. Anne Hutchinson was a significant figure in this theological debate. Her active social position gave new turn to the events of that époque.
Unfortunately, there is not enough facts and details from the life of this outstanding woman. She did not leave any letters or diaries, which could have shaded the light on certain facts from her biography. Despite such lack of information, her actions certainly speak louder than words.
Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) came from a family of the Puritan priest from Lincolnshire. Her father, Thomas Mabery, was an active public figure. His desire to reform the religious issues had influenced his daughter. Since her early age she was an active follower of John Cotton – a well-known theologian who advocated the primary importance of “The Covenant of Grace”. According to Cotton and his adherents “The Covenant of Grace” guarantees the salvation of the sinners only if they have sincere faith in God and His power. If “The Eternal Covenant” was made between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Covenant of Grace was made between God and Man” (Jacobs 13).
In 1634 Anne and all members of her family, i.e. a husband and ten children, moved to the Northern America. In September of the same year they arrived to Massachusetts. Hutchinson’s husband, William, was a successful merchant. Soon after the family’s arrival in America, the Hutchinsons became one of the richest and respectful people in the city. William Hutchinson quickly occupied the highest position among the authorities and became the member of the Boston’s city council. Moreover, the man was elected as the deacon of the church.
Anne leaded an active social life as well. She often organized the meetings with her neighbors where she shared her thoughts on certain issues. In the length of time she became a well-known person in the city and earned the respect of many reputable men. John Wilson was the chief preacher at that time whom Anne Hutchinson sincerely despised. She was convinced that John Cotton, who was a scholar before his departure to America, deserved this position more than Wilson. The woman also highly appreciated a reverend John Wheelwright, who was her sister’s husband. In the course of her meetings, Anne Hutchinson discussed the qualities of these priests and analyzed their sermons.
“She brought attention to Cotton's spirit-centered theology, championing him and her brother-in-law John Wheelwright as true Christian ministers against the "legal" preachers who taught that a moral life was sufficient grounds for salvation. With Cotton and Wheelwright, Hutchinson believed that redemption was God's gift to his elect and could not be earned by human effort: the soul remained passive to the work of divine grace in the drama of salvation” (jstor.org).
In a little while the informal discussion changed into the heated debates on the principal religious issues. The number of participants was rapidly increasing; the majority of them were women. In addition, among the men who took an active part in the gatherings were the wealthiest Boston’s merchants and craftsmen and even the city’s governor Henry Vane. He was a son of a high-ranking British aristocrat and had come to America for three years. The colonists had chosen Henry Vane as a governor hoping that his enthusiasm and experience would help to liberalize the magistrate’s politics. His participation and interest in the meetings gave a particular touch to these events.
In fact, Henry Vane’s rule had not reduced the magistrate’s restrictions. Very soon the tension between the authorities and colonists resulted in the conflict known as the Antinomian Controversy. Anne Hutchinson was the leader of the process. Her profound knowledge of the Bible, bravery and eloquence made her the principal speaker of the movement. Hutchinson’s ideas reflected the theological dispute which concentrates on two ways of salvation: through faith (“Covenant of Grace”) or deeds (“Covenant of Works”). Anne insisted that the Bible demonstrates the way to salvation through the “Covenant of Grace”, which transforms religion into the interaction between a person and God. The “Covenant of Deeds” requires the absolute obedience to the laws of the Bible. As the result, the interpretation of the ideas from the Holly Book may differ depending on the priest who explains them.
The magistrate and priests made a stand against the woman’s views. While stating that everyone can directly communicate with God, Hutchinson demanded the equality between the colonists and those, who governed the lives of common people by means of politics and religion. In 1637 the authorities accused Anne Hutchinson’s views of being heretical. “In November, 1637, Anne Hutchinson was tried before the General Court on charges of heresy and sedition” (about.com). While standing in front of the judges she announced that she had had a few revelations. In one of them she saw the God sitting "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 dismayed," she said. "Therefore, take heed. For I know that for this that you goe about to doe unto me," she continued, "God will ruin you and your posterity, and this whole State." Winthrop did not believe in the woman’s statements and replied, "I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion" (Crawford, 140-142). As a punishment the judges decided to excommunicate and expel Anne from the colony "as being a woman not fit for our society" (Crawford, 142).
In 1638 the Hutchinsons left Massachusetts. Thirty five other families followed them, which proved the great power of woman’s influence on the lives of the fellow citizens. All these people joined Rodger Williams who had moved from the colony before; together the settlers founded the new colony Rod-Island. In 1642 Anne Hutchinson bought a small territory where she intended to start a new life. These were the Dutch people who sold this piece of land to the woman, convincing her of the legality of the purchase. In fact, the land belonged to the Indians who mistakenly treated the Hutchinsons as the enemies who came to seize their lands. The Indians killed Anne Hutchinson, her children and neighbors.
Undoubtedly, Anne Hutchinson’s views constituted a danger to the authorities. Not only had her interpretation of the theological issues provoked the desire to suppress her with their power, but also the fact that these opinions were sounded by a woman. She was certainly the first in the colonial America who addressed the issues of gender equality.