Anne Hutchinson - Puritans - American Religion
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Anne Hutchinson

map of puritan boston
Boston in the time of Anne Hutchinson

Anne Hutchinson was born in 1603, the same year that Queen Elizabeth died. Her father was a Puritan minister in England. Like Mary Cavendish about the same time, Hutchinson was home-schooled with her brothers and sisters. She became a Puritan too. Hutchinson liked the Puritan idea that faith – believing in Jesus – got you into Heaven, and not works – doing good things. She held regular meetings in her house where she preached the importance of faith to other Puritans – both men and women. Jesus says things like that in the Gospels, and Martin Luther said this too in the 1500s.

By the time Anne Hutchinson was 43 years old, many Puritans were fleeing from King Charles, who was arresting and killing Puritans, to Algonquin land in North America. Hutchinson and her family left England too. They moved to Boston. They had a big two-story house, flocks of sheep, and a very good business selling cloth to Bostonians. Hutchinson hoped that the new city of Boston would be a place where women could be equal to men, and where all people could be free. She wanted the Puritans to be more friendly with the Algonquin. She preached that people should obey God’s law, not the laws of men. Sometimes she seemed to be saying it didn’t matter even if you did bad things. As long as you believed that Jesus could save you, He would. Hutchinson's ideas were very popular, especially with rich people who wanted to enjoy themselves. Sixty people at a time came to hear her speak, including the young governor of Massachusetts.

But the men in charge of Boston didn’t like Hutchinson’s ideas. They thought Boston should be a chance for them to hold power and tell people what to do. Boston ministers and judges accused Hutchinson of heresy and disobedience. They put her on trial for what they called her antinomian philosophy - being against rules and laws - then forced her to leave Massachusetts, three years after she got there.

Hutchinson and her children moved to Rhode Island. Dozens of her followers came with her. They elected a new governor, but after only a few months Hutchinson objected to that governor pushing people around too. She made her husband governor instead. Then Hutchinson began to preach that people should live without any government at all. Like the early Christian Montanus, she said that men and women should make their own decisions, consulting God directly through prayer, not through ministers. She urged her followers to be peaceful, and not fight wars, and refused to have guns in her house. A few years later, Hutchinson was killed by Algonquins, angry because the governor of New Amsterdam was trying to expand his territory into their land.

Learn by Doing - Puritans
More about the Puritans
More about Charles I
American religion

Bibliography and further reading about the Puritans:

Charles I in England
Declaration of Independence
Bill of Rights
American religion
American History home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 24 April, 2017