Mar 222018
 

On this date in 1638, following a number of civil and church proceedings against her, Anne Hutchinson (née Marbury; July 1591 – August 1643), a Puritan and a major player in the Antinomian Controversy which shook the infant Massachusetts Bay Colony, was formally banished from the Colony. Her strong religious convictions were at odds with the established Puritan clergy in the Boston area, and her popularity and charisma helped create a theological schism that threatened to destroy the Puritan community in New England.

Hutchinson was born in Alford in Lincolnshire in England, the daughter of Francis Marbury, an Anglican cleric and school teacher who gave Anne a superior education for the time. She lived in London as a young adult, and there married her old friend from home William Hutchinson. The couple moved back to Alford where they began following dynamic preacher John Cotton in the nearby port of Boston, Lincolnshire. Cotton was compelled to emigrate in 1633, and the Hutchinsons followed a year later with their 11 children and soon became well established in the growing settlement of Boston in New England. Anne was a midwife and used that position to convey her personal religious convictions to women in her care. Soon she was hosting women at her house weekly, providing commentary on recent sermons. These meetings became so popular that she began offering meetings for men as well, including the young governor of the colony Henry Vane.

Cotton

She began to accuse the local ministers (except for Cotton and her husband’s brother-in-law John Wheelwright) of preaching a “covenant of works” rather than a “covenant of grace,” and many ministers began to complain about her increasingly blatant accusations, as well as certain theological teachings that did not accord with orthodox Puritan theology. The situation eventually erupted into what is commonly called the Antinomian Controversy. Hutchinson’s visits to women in childbirth led to discussions along the lines of the conventicles in England.

As the meetings continued, Hutchinson began offering her own religious views, stressing that only “an intuition of the Spirit” would lead to one’s election by God, and not good works. Her ideas that one’s outward behavior was not necessarily tied to the state of one’s soul became attractive to those who might have been more attached to their professions than to their religious state, such as merchants and craftsmen. The colony’s ministers became more aware of Hutchinson’s meetings, and they contended that such “unauthorised” religious gatherings might confuse the faithful. Hutchinson responded to this with a verse from Titus (2:3-4), saying that “the elder women should instruct the younger.”

Hutchinson’s gatherings were seen as unorthodox by some of the colony’s ministers, and differing religious opinions within the colony eventually became public debates. The resulting religious tension erupted into what has traditionally been called the Antinomian Controversy, but has more recently been labelled the Free Grace Controversy. The Reverend Zachariah Symmes had sailed to New England on the same ship as the Hutchinsons. In September 1634, he told another minister that he doubted Anne Hutchinson’s orthodoxy, based on questions that she asked him following his shipboard sermons. This issue delayed Hutchinson’s membership to the Boston church by a week, until a pastoral examination determined that she was sufficiently orthodox to join the church.

In 1635, a difficult situation arose when senior pastor John Wilson returned from a lengthy trip to England where he had been settling his affairs. Hutchinson was exposed to his teaching for the first time, and she immediately saw a big difference between her own doctrines and his. She found his emphasis on morality and his doctrine of “evidencing justification by sanctification” to be disagreeable. She told her followers that Wilson lacked “the seal of the Spirit.” Wilson’s theological views were in accord with all of the other ministers in the colony except for Cotton, who stressed “the inevitability of God’s will” (“free grace”) as opposed to preparation (works).

Wilson

Hutchinson and her allies had become accustomed to Cotton’s doctrines, and they began disrupting Wilson’s sermons, even finding excuses to leave when Wilson got up to preach or pray. Thomas Shepard, the minister of Newtown (which later became Cambridge), began writing letters to Cotton as early as the spring of 1636. He expressed concern about Cotton’s preaching and about some of the unorthodox opinions found among his Boston parishioners. Shepard went even further when he began criticising the Boston opinions to his Newtown congregation during his sermons. In May 1636, the Bostonians received a new ally when the Reverend John Wheelwright arrived from England and immediately aligned himself with Cotton, Hutchinson, and other “free grace” advocates. Wheelwright had been a close neighbor of the Hutchinsons in Lincolnshire, and his wife was a sister of Hutchinson’s husband. Another boost for the free grace advocates came during the same month, when the young aristocrat Henry Vane was elected as the governor of the colony. Vane was a strong supporter of Hutchinson, but he also had his own ideas about theology that were considered not only unorthodox, but radical by some.

Wheelwright

Hutchinson and the other free grace advocates continued to question the orthodox ministers in the colony. Wheelwright began preaching at Mount Wollaston, about ten miles south of the Boston meetinghouse, and his sermons began to answer Shepard’s criticisms with his own criticism of the covenant of works. This mounting “pulpit aggression” continued throughout the summer, along with the lack of respect shown Boston’s Reverend Wilson. Wilson endured these religious differences for several months before deciding that the affronts and errors were serious enough to require a response. He is the one who likely alerted magistrate John Winthrop, one of his parishioners, to take notice. On or shortly after 21 October 1636, Winthrop gave the first public warning of the problem that consumed him and the leadership of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for much of the next two years. In his journal he wrote, “One Mrs. Hutchinson, a member of the church at Boston, a woman of a ready wit and a bold spirit, brought over with her two dangerous errors: 1. That the person of the Holy Ghost dwells in a justified person. 2. That no sanctification can help to evidence to us our justification.” He went on to elaborate these two points, and the Antinomian Controversy began with this journal entry.

On 25th October 1636, seven ministers gathered at the home of Cotton to confront the developing discord; they held a “private conference” which included Hutchinson and other lay leaders from the Boston church. Some agreement was reached, and Cotton “gave satisfaction to them [the other ministers], so as he agreed with them all in the point of sanctification, and so did Mr. Wheelwright; so as they all did hold, that sanctification did help to evidence justification.” Another issue was that some of the ministers had heard that Hutchinson had criticised them during her conventicles for preaching a covenant of works and said that they were not able ministers of the New Testament. Hutchinson responded to this only when prompted, and only to one or two ministers at a time. She believed that her response, which was largely coaxed from her, was private and confidential. A year later, her words were used against her in her 1637 trial, conviction, and banishment from the colony. This was followed by a March 1638 church trial in which she was excommunicated.

Hutchinson and many of her supporters established the settlement of Portsmouth with encouragement from Providence Plantations founder Roger Williams in what became the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. After her husband’s death a few years later, threats of Massachusetts taking over Rhode Island compelled Hutchinson to move totally outside the reach of Boston into the lands of the Dutch. Five of her older surviving children remained in New England or in England, while she settled with her younger children near an ancient landmark called Split Rock in what later became The Bronx in New York City. Tensions were high at the time with the Siwanoy Indians. In August 1643, Hutchinson, six of her children, and other household members were massacred by Siwanoys during Kieft’s War. The only survivor was her 9-year-old daughter Susanna, who was taken captive.

Hutchinson is a key figure in the history of religious freedom in England’s American colonies and the history of women in ministry, challenging the authority of the ministers. She is honored by Massachusetts with a State House monument calling her a “courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.” She has been called the most famous—or infamous—English woman in colonial American history.

She has since been celebrated in memorials, with a river and a highway (the Hutchinson River Parkway), named after her. I drove the “Hutch” on my daily commute to work for 25 years. By some weird coincidence my first real girlfriend was also named Anne Hutchinson. Yet another Anne Hutchinson wrote the main textbook on Labanotation (dance notation) in English, which I used all the time in my research. Clearly, she is haunting me.

The cooking in colonial North American colonies of the 17th century very closely followed that of the home countries of the colonists, with some substitution of ingredients. This fricassee recipe comes from The Accomplish’d Lady’s Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery (1675), and is a favorite of mine. Rabbit and chicken fricassee were undoubtedly popular dishes in the colonies, although more for special meals than daily cooking. The trick here is to use young, tender meats. Fricassees are not long-cooking stews. The meat, jointed, is simmered very quickly until just cooked, then the juice is replaced with butter and egg yolks to make a thick sauce along with some verjuice (which you can replace with white wine).

To make a Rare Fricacie.

Take Young Rabbits, Young Chickens, or a Rack of Lamb, being cut one Rib from another, and par-boyl either of these well in a Frying-pan with a little water and salt, then pour the water and salt from it, and Fry it with sweet Butter, and make sauce with three Yolks of Eggs beaten well, with six spoonfuls of Verjuice, and a little shred Parsley, with some sliced Nutmeg, and scalded Gooseberries; when it is fryed, pour in the sauce all over the Meat, and so let it thicken a little in the pan; then lay it in a Dish with the sauce, and serve it.