“Your opinions frett like a Gangrene and spread like a Leprosie.” Such were the criticisms that authorities in the Massachusetts Bay Colony leveled at Anne Hutchinson.
The daughter of an English clergyman, Hutchinson came to Boston with her husband and children in 1634, serving as a midwife in the settlement. She began to invite neighbors into her home to discuss sermons and study the Bible. Anne was well versed in theology, and the meetings attracted a steady following.
Soon Anne’s commentaries roused the ire of John Winthrop, longtime Puritan leader. Winthrop considered some of her teachings, such as that people could communicate with God directly without the aid of church officials, a threat to his “city upon a hill.” He did not like the idea of an outspoken woman challenging Puritan authorities.
What began as a quarrel over religious doctrine turned into a struggle for influence. Hutchinson was brought to trial and accused of betraying the laws of church and state. She retorted that Winthrop’s edicts were “for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway” – she didn’t need colonial officials to tell her how to practice her faith.
Hutchinson refused to yield, and on March 22, 1638, she was banished from the colony. She moved with her family and several followers to Rhode Island, where she helped found Portsmouth. She later moved to New York where, in 1643, she was killed in an Indian attack.
Today Anne Hutchinson is remembered as a pioneer who stood up for some freedoms now embedded in our Constitution. The inscription on her statue in front of Boston’s State House reads, in part: “In Memory of Anne Marbury Hutchinson … Courageous Exponent of Civil Liberty and Religious Toleration.”