American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans
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In 1637, Anne Hutchinson, a forty-six-year-old midwife who was pregnant with her sixteenth child, stood before forty male judges of the Massachusetts General Court, charged with heresy and sedition. In a time when women could not vote, hold public office, or teach outside the home, the charismatic Hutchinson wielded remarkable political power. Her unconventional ideas had attracted a following of prominent citizens eager for social reform. Hutchinson defended herself brilliantly, but the judges, faced with a perceived threat to public order, banished her for behaving in a manner "not comely for [her] sex."
Written by one of Hutchinson's direct descendants, American Jezebel brings both balance and perspective to Hutchinson's story. It captures this American heroine's life in all its complexity, presenting her not as a religious fanatic, a cardboard feminist, or a raging crank—as some have portrayed her—but as a flesh-and-blood wife, mother, theologian, and political leader. The book narrates her dramatic expulsion from Massachusetts, after which her judges, still threatened by her challenges, promptly built Harvard College to enforce religious and social orthodoxies—making her the mid-wife to the nation's first college. In exile, she settled Rhode Island, becoming the only woman ever to co-found an American colony.
The seeds of the American struggle for women's and human rights can be found in the story of this one woman's courageous life. American Jezebel illuminates the origins of our modern concepts of religious freedom, equal rights, and free speech, and showcases an extraordinary woman whose achievements are astonishing by the standards of any era.
Sir Henry Vane,” Oliver Cromwell said at the time. “Thou with thy subtle casuistries and abstruse hair splittings, thou art other than a good one! The Lord deliver me from thee, Henry Vane!” Three years later Cromwell had Vane imprisoned briefly for writing a pamphlet, A Healing Question, against arbitrary government. After Cromwell’s death in 1658, Vane sat in Parliament under Cromwell’s son. At the fall of Richard Cromwell’s government, Vane argued for the restoration of the Long Parliament. In
Hutchinson, Samuel (son), 15, 139, 146, 159, 209, 215, 232, 239 Hutchinson, Sarah (sister-in-law), 152 Hutchinson, Susan (daughter). See Cole, Susan Hutchinson Hutchinson, Thomas, Governor of Massachusetts (great-great grandson), vii, 241–42, 259 Hutchinson, William (husband), 1, 10, 13, 15, 46, 65, 85, 139–58; Anne Marbury, love for, 141–44, 212–13, 220, 222; birth and early years, Alford, Lincolnshire, 140; Boston home built, 154–55; Calvinism of, 224; character and personality, 140; church
live children (just as her daughter Anne would), twelve of whom survived early childhood. At the time of Anne’s birth, the Reformation had spread across Europe. The continent that a century earlier had been almost entirely Roman Catholic was now split between Rome and various Protestant sects. The Renaissance was in full swing. In 1591, when Anne arrived, Cervantes was forty-four; Francis Bacon was thirty; Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Galileo Galilei were twenty-seven; and Ben Jonson
women worship separately, and women do not participate in services. Despite women’s exclusion from many aspects of worship in New England, they felt as much anxiety as did the men about their spiritual well-being. The women too had risked their lives by crossing the ocean to worship God freely. Concern about their soul’s salvation was rarely far from their minds, particularly in light of the Puritan belief that salvation is not possible unless one was chosen by God before birth—predestined, or
ministers in the land that they have preached a covenant of works, and only Mr. Cotton a covenant of grace, why this is not to be suffered.” A covenant of works as against a covenant of grace. This simple formulation, opaque to many modern readers, was the crux of the issue between Anne Hutchinson and the orthodox ministers, which had rent the colony. And despite all their efforts to resolve it in 1637, this issue would vex the ministers and the people of New England for well over two centuries.