The Threat of Anne Hutchinson

The Threat of Anne Hutchinson
In Puritan led Massachusetts Bay Colony during the days of Anne Hutchinson was an intriguing place to have lived. It was designed ideally as a holy mission in the New World called the city upon a hill, a mission to provide a prime example of how protestant lives should have subsisted of. A key ingredient to the success of the Puritan community was the cohesion of the community as a whole, which was created by a high level of conformity in the colony. Puritan leaders provided leadership for all facets of life; socially, economically, religiously, and even politically. A certain hierarchy was very apparent in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in which ministers always seemed to have gotten their way. Governor Winthrop got his way in 1637 by banishing a woman, Anne Hutchinson, whom he thought posed a threat to the structure of the colony. I believe that there is a legit rationale for her banishment, this being her religious ideas that were very close to that of the Antinomians who Governor Winthrop was not too fond of. I also think that this was not the primal reason. In my mind, Annes gender played a large role in determining whether or not she actually posed a serious threat to the solidarity of Massachusetts.

Upon her arrival to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634, Anne Hutchinson was a much respected member of her community. As time went on, her dealings with the religion began to become a little more heated. She began to house meetings of females and even ministers discussing all facets of Puritan religious ideas. This is when she began flirting with the line of being an Antinomian. Antinomians were radical Puritans that believed that ministers were beginning to preach more from the covenant of works angle as opposed from the covenant of grace position. This was a very controversial outlook upon ones political and religious leaders, considering a main ideal of the Puritans is that the covenant of works is absolutely wrong. Antinomians were a threat to the Puritan lifestyle of conformity because it created animosity amongst the members of the colony.

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In the trial against Anne Hutchinson, she was charged, in a vague manner, to be a danger to the colony because of the spreading of her Antinomian opinions at her meetings. Throughout the entire trial Anne was slowly being backed into a corner in which ideally she would have then broken down and admitted to doing all the wrongs in which Governor Winthrop believed she was guilty of, but she never really did. The evidence against her was so weak in nature, that it seemed that Winthrop, along with all the other elders and deputies, really needed a confession to completely justify her banishment. Though unsuccessful in their efforts, even when it was brought up by the Deputy Governor that Anne went to a meeting of ministers and told them all that they preached the covenant of works to their very faces, Anne stayed with the Fifth Amendment technique and denied nothing, while admitting nothing. Where I believe she might have messed up is when she attested to the probability of her saying this of the ministers in private. By saying that, she more than admitted to being of the same mindset of the ostracized Antinomians. This in turn gave the hungry judges/jury enough evidence for the banishment.

It is my understanding that Annes type of mischief was not too uncommon for that time period in Massachusetts. Meetings were held all over between Puritans discussing religious topics such as Biblical translations and weekly sermons given by local ministers. A serious factor in Anne being singled out in my opinion had to deal with her being a woman. Women in those times were not nearly as liberated as they are now. Though Puritan women seemed to have been given many rights that most women in the world did not receive, there had to have been some ill will towards a woman that was going as far as Anne was.

Governor Winthrop was simple in his dealing with women, both his wife and sister were very submissive and more supportive than opinionated. I think this is what Winthrop along with most Puritans believed was the role of women in the colony. Since Anne Hutchinson was holding meetings consisting mainly of women, she taught them how to be a Puritan woman in society, which was actually a role all in itself. Winthrop, I suppose, had a problem with the spreading of her opinions amongst women, which in turn would contribute to the development of even more opinionated women like Anne herself. This worried Winthrop along with other elders in the colony, as did a woman with any type of power on could imagine. And power is exactly what Anne was growing in, along with favor.

Taken as a whole, Anne Hutchinson did in fact pose a threat to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She not only undermined the authority of ministers in the colony by letting it slip that she might be of the Antinomian mindset, but she also caused a stir between genders. To the elder Puritan leaders Anne might not have been a large threat at the time of her banishment, but they probably believed that she was only going to become more powerful and more controversial and eventually would lead to the downfall of the city upon a hill mission that the Puritans set out on.