Anne Marbury Hutchinson

Although her exact birth date is uncertain,1 on July 20, 1591, the infant Anne Marbury was baptized in Alford, Lincolnshire, England. The first female religious leader among North America’s early European settlers, Anne Marbury Hutchinson was the daughter of an outspoken clergyman silenced for criticizing the Church of England. Better educated than most men of the day, she spent her youth immersed in her father’s library.

At twenty-one, Anne Marbury married William Hutchinson and bore the first of their fourteen children. The Hutchinsons became adherents of the preaching and teachings of John Cotton, a Puritan minister who left England for America. In 1634, the Hutchinson family followed Cotton to New England, where religious and political authority overlapped.

The General Laws and Liberties of the Massachusetts Colony: Revised and Reprinted, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Samuel Green, 1672. Law Library. Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Part 1.

Many criminal laws in the early New England colonies were based on the Bible, especially the Old Testament. Often called “Bible Commonwealths,” the New England colonies sought guidance from the scriptures in regulating the lives of their citizens.

Serving as a skilled herbalist and midwife in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Anne Hutchinson began meeting with other women for prayer and religious discussion. Her charisma and intelligence soon also drew men, including ministers and magistrates, to her gatherings. She emphasized the individual’s relationship with God, stressing personal revelation over institutionalized observances and absolute reliance on God’s grace rather than on good works as the means to salvation. Hutchinson’s views challenged religious orthodoxy, while her growing power as a female spiritual leader threatened established gender roles.

Mary Dyer Led to Execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660. Color Engraving, Nineteenth Century. Courtesy of The Granger Collection. Dyer was a supporter of Hutchinson who was exiled from Massachusetts and and hanged for supporting Puritan orthodoxy. Religion and the Founding of the American Republic. Part 2

Called for a civil trial before the General Court of Massachusetts in November 1637, Hutchinson ably defended herself against charges that she had defamed the colony’s ministers and that as a woman she had dared to teach men. Her extensive knowledge of Scripture, her eloquence, and her intelligence allowed Hutchinson to debate with more skill than her accusers. Yet because Hutchinson claimed direct revelation from God and argued that “laws, commands, rules, and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway,” she was convicted and banished from the colony, a sentence confirmed along with formal excommunication in the ecclesiastical trial that followed.

Refusing to recant, Hutchinson accepted exile and in 1638 migrated with her family to Roger Williams’ new colony of Rhode Island, where she helped found the town of Portsmouth. After her husband died in 1642, Hutchinson moved to Dutch territory near Long Island Sound (across from an area now known as Co-op City, along New York’s Hutchinson River Parkway, named for Anne Hutchinson). In 1643, Hutchinson and six of her children were killed by Siwanoy Indians, possibly with the encouragement of Puritan authorities. “Proud Jezebel has at last been cast down,” was the supposed comment of Hutchinson’s nemesis, Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop.

  1. During Hutchinson’s lifetime, England still followed the Old, or Julian, Calendar, even though in 1582 much of the rest of Europe had adopted the modern New, or Gregorian Calendar, which differed by ten days at that time. Thus Hutchinson’s baptism actually occurred on what would be July 30 on today’s calendar. (Return to text)

Learn More

The Seneca Falls Convention Continues

On July 20, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention convened for a second day. On the previous day, convention organizer Elizabeth Cady Stanton had read the Declaration of Sentiments. In the process of reviewing a list of attached resolutions, the group united to demand women’s right to vote in the United States.

Tillers of the Soil. Betty Rolfe, Maud Davis, Elizabeth Davis, Martha Warren of Seneca Falls, as Tillers of the Soil in the Dance Drama depicting the Progress of Woman to be given at the reception at Seneca Falls on July 20…seventy fifth Equal Rights anniversary celebration. Bullock Studio, Seneca Falls. [July], 1923. Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Manuscript Division

Eleven of the resolutions proposed in the “Declaration” passed unanimously and without much argument yet, the resolution calling for women’s enfranchisement met with some opposition. Some attendees did not feel that the vote was an important or necessary goal. Lucretia Mott is quoted as having said, “Lizzie (E.C. Stanton), thou wilt make the convention ridiculous.” Former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass stood with Stanton and argued forcefully for the absolute need and intrinsic value of the elective franchise for women.

“Frederick Douglass” / Charles White ’51. Charles White, artist; Los Angeles: Heritage Gallery, c1951. Goldstein Foundation Collection–Prints and Drawings. Prints & Photographs Division

After intense debate among those present, the historic assembly passed all twelve of the resolutions, including the following:

Resolved, That it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.

The Declaration of Sentiments was signed by 100 individuals, 62 women and 38 men. As a comparison, there were 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence, all men. Although narrowly approved, passage of the suffrage resolution inaugurated seventy-two years of organized struggle for woman suffrage culminating in the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

The Public Reaction to the Seneca Falls Convention

National Anti Suffrage Association. Harris & Ewing, photographer,[1911?]. Prints & Photographs Division

The fledgling women’s rights movement had no shortage of detractors. The various forces of opposition challenging the women’s rights movement during this time had many names, but in general are referred to as part of the anti-suffrage movement. In addition to the critiques found in newspapers, both at home and abroad, the backlash also included various political cartoons and propaganda.

“Woman’s Rights Convention.” Geo. G. Cooper, Editor. National Reformer (Sheffield, UK), August 10, 1848. Reason Gallery A. American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division

Learn More