Anne Marbury Hutchinson


"As I understand it, laws, commands, rules and edicts are for those who have not the light which makes plain the pathway." Anne Hutchinson






20 - JULY 1595






Statue of Anne Hutchinson

Photo © 1995 Sam Behling



Anne MARBURY, my 10th great grandmother, was the daughter of Reverend Francis MARBURY and Bridget DRYDEN, and was born in 1591 in Alford, Lincolnshire, England. She married William HUTCHINSON, a merchant, 9 Aug 1612 in London. She and her husband came to America in 1634 with Reverend John Lothrop's group on the ship "Griffin" and settled in Boston.

No stranger to religion, Anne grew up during the persecution of the Catholics and Separatists under Elizabeth and James I. Her father, Rev. Francis Marbury, had been imprisoned twice for preaching against the incompetence of English ministers, though he later became the rector of St. Martin's Vintry, London, rector of St. Pancras, Soper Lane, and finally rector of St. Margaret's, New Fish Street. He was holding two of these offices simultaneously when he died in 1611.

Anne began her involvment with religion quite innocently, using her intelligence to interpret the only book available to her - the Bible. She had followed her beloved minister, Reverend John Cotton, whose removal to New England a year earlier had been "a great trouble to me...I could not be at rest but I must come hither."

The religious climate in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was oppresive. As the colony took hold, ministers emphasized everyone's pious duty to pray, fast and discipline oneself. Noting that the male members of Boston's church met regularly after sermons to discuss the Bible, she started to hold similar meetings for women in her own home. At first the women discussed the previous Sunday's sermons, but before long Anne began telling them of her own beliefs which differed from those of the Boston ministers. She attracted hundreds of women - aided by her reputation as a skilled midwife - and men, too, soon joined her discussion group.

Brilliant, articulate and learned in the Bible and theology, she denied that conformity with the religious laws were a sign of godliness and inisted that true godliness came from inner experience of the Holy Spirit. Anne further exacerbated the local elders by claiming that only two Boston ministers were "elect" or saved, John Cotton and her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright.

Anne's weekly meetings took on a new importance. As many as eighty people filled her house, including "some of the magistrates, some gentlemen, some scholars and men of learning." Among them was Sir Henry Vane, who became governor of the colony in 1636. When Anne, with the aid of Governor Vane and John Cotton, attemped to have her brother-in-law, John Wheelwright installed as minister of the Boston chuch, most of the congregation supported her. But the pastor of the church, Reverend John Wilson, gave a speech on the "inevitable dangers of separation" caused by the religious dissensions, and joined with John Winthrop in opposing her.

What started as a religious point of difference grew into a schism that threatened the political stability of the colony. To her opponents, questioning the church meant questioning the State. Anne's ideas were branded as the heresy of "Antinomianism" (a belief that Christians are not bound by moral law), and her followers became known as "Antinomians". Intended to be derogatory, the term was erroneously applied to Anne's followers, who did not believe that the inner Holy Spirit released them from obligation to moral law.

The colonial government moved to discipline her and her numerous followers in Boston. In May 1637, Vane lost the governorship to John Winthrop. To prevent new Antinomians from settling, he imposed a restriction on immigrants, among them Anne's brother and several of her friends. In August, eighty-two "heresies" committed by the Antinomians were read at a synod, and a ban was placed on all private meetings.

But Wheelwright continued to preach and Anne now held her meetings twice a week. In November, Winthop and his supporters filed charges against Anne and Wheelwright, who were then put on trial for heresy before a meeting of the General Court. Intending to prove that Anne's behavior was immoral, Winthrop described her meetings as "a thing not tolerable nor comely in the sight of God, nor fitting for your sex," and accused her of breaking the Fifth Commandment by not honoring her father and mother (in this case, the magistrates of the colony). At this trial, she parried all questions so well that Edmund S. Morgan, a biographer of Gov. John Winthrop, was led to comment that Anne Hutchinson was the governor's "intellectual superior in everything except political judgment; in everything except the sense of what was possible in this world." Answering deftly, Anne came close to clearing herself of all charges. But suddenly, she mentioned that she had had several revelations. The Lord revealed himself to her, she said, "upon a Throne of Justice, and all the world appearing before him, and though I must come to New England, yet I must not fear nor be dismaied," she said. "Therefore, take heed. For I know that for this that you goe about to doe unto me," she threatened, "God will ruin you and your posterity, and this whole State." Winthop immediately replied, "I am persuaded that the revelation she brings forth is delusion." The court voted to banish her from the colony, "as being a woman not fit for our society".

Wheelwright was exiled and shortly left for New Hamphire while Anne was put under house arrest for the winter to await a church trial in the spring. On March 15, 1638, Anne was brought to trial before the elders of the church of Boston. When her sons and sons-in-law tried to speak on her behalf, John Cotton cautioned them against "hindering" the work of God in healing her soul. To the women of the congretation he said to be careful in listening to her, "for you see she is but a woman and many unsound and dayngerous Principles are held by her."

Once her friend, Cotton now turned full force against her, attacking her meetings as a "promiscuous and filthie coming together of men and women without Distinction of Relation of Marriage," and accused her of believing in free love. "Your opinions frett like a Gangrene and spread like a Leprosie, and will eate out the very Bowells of Religion."

Then Reverend Wilson, whom she had once tried to evict from the Boston church, delivered her excommunication. "I doe cast you out and in the name of Christ I doe deliver you up to Satan, that you may learne no more to blaspheme, to seduce, and to lye."

"The Lord judgeth not as man judgeth," she retored. "Better to be cast out of the church than to deny Christ."

Banished from Boston, Anne Hutchinson with her husband, children and 60 followers settled in the land of Narragansetts, from whose chief, Miantonomah, they purchased the island of Aquidneck (Peaceable Island), now part of Rhode Island. In March, 1638 they founded the town of Pocasset, the Indian name for that locality; the name "Portsmouth" was given to the settlement in 1639. Here they established that colony's first civil government.

After William's death in 1642, Anne took her children, except for five of the eldest, to the Dutch colony in New York. But a few months later, fifteen Dutchmen were killed in a battle between Mahicans and the Mohawks. In August, 1643 the Mahicans raided the Hutchinson house and slaughtered Anne and five of her youngest children. Only one young daughter who was present, Susanna who was taken captive, survived. (Note: Many older sources insist that ALL of Anne's children except her daughter, Susanna were killed with her. This is simply not true. Sons Edward, Richard and Samuel were not present, nor were her eldest daughters, Faith and Bridget, most of whom left numerous descendants.)

The site of Anne's house and the scene of her murder is in what is now Pelham Bay Park, within the limits of New York City, less than a dozen miles from the City Hall. Not far from it, beside the road, is a large glacial boulder, popularly called Split Rock from its division into two parts, probably by the action of frost aided by the growth of a large tree, the stump of which separates the parts. The line of vision of one looking through the split towards Hutchinson River at the foot of the hill will very nearly cross the site of the house. In 1911 a bronze tablet to the memory of Mrs. Hutchinson was placed on Split Rock by the Society of Colonial Dames of the State of New York, who recognized that the resting place of this most noted woman of her time was well worthy of such a memorial. The tablet bears the following inscription:

Banished From the Massachusetts Bay Colony
In 1638
Because of Her Devotion to Religious Liberty
This Courageous Woman
Sought Freedom From Persecution
In New Netherland
Near This Rock in 1643 She and Her Household
Were Massacred by Indians
This Table is placed here by the
Colonial Dames of the State of New York
Anno Domini MCMXI
Virtutes Majorum Fillae Conservant

Some twentieth century observers credit Anne Hutchinson with being the first American woman to lead the public fight for religious diversity and female quality. In his 1971 biography, Eleanor and Franklin, Joseph P. Lash reported that Eleanor Roosevelt began her list of America's greatest women with Anne Hutchinson. Anne did indeed use her considerable influence as a woman to test the Massachusetts Bay Colony's religious tolerance which, ironically, had been the reason for the settlement.


Anne Hutchinson Memorial

To The Memory Of
1591 - 1643
Wife, Mother, Midwife, Visionary
Spiritual Leader and Original Settler
April 1996

Photo © 1997 Elliot J. Wilcox


In April, 1996, Anne Hutchinson was honored by the dedication of a plaque which appears in the photo. It was placed at Founders Brook Park on Aquidneck Island (Portsmouth), Rhode Island. The plaque is the work of the Anne Hutchinson Memorial Committee, a group of Aquidneck Island volunteers led by Valerie DeBrule of Newport, who raised funds to pay for the plaque and surrounding medicinal herb garden.

The following article appeared in the Sakonnet Times in the April 25, 1996 edition.

Anne Hutchinson - Finally the Honor She Deserves
by James Garman

Anne Hutchinson played a vital role in the founding of a settlement at the northern end of Aquidneck Island that came to be known as Portsmouth.

According to local historian Edward H. West, residents of this state should realize the debt they owe Anne Hutchinson for "without her there would never have been a Rhode Island." While this accolade might be just a bit overdrawn, she did play an important role in the colony's founding.

Anne Marbury was born in England in 1591, the daughter of Francis Marbury, a loyal minister to the Anglican Church. In 1612 she married a London merchant, William Hutchinson. Ultimately they had 15 children.

The Hutchinsons followed a reform minister, the Rev. John Cotton, to Boston in 1634. Anne was popular among the women in Massachusetts Bay, whom she sometimes served as midwife. Boston was a fairly severe place dominated by the Puritan Church which saw the Bible as the source of all law. Anne gathered a group that would meet in her home and discuss issues of religion. She frequently would analyze and criticize the previous Sunday's sermon by Rev. Cotton or the Rev. John Wilson. The nature of Anne's criticism of the church revolved around their idea of salvation by works or deeds. She believed in salvation by grace, and therefore that one could not prepare to be saved. Many influential men of the Massachusetts Bay colony listened to her and became followers.

Anne and her supporters began to be referred to as "Antinomians" by their detractors. This term meant "against law." Their ideas were actually a return to the fundamental ideas of John Calvin in their belief that grace was more important than works.

Anne's husband William, meanwhile, had been elected a judge in Massachusetts Bay in 1635 and a deputy in 1636.

The pace of Anne's religious zeal accelerated. With her friend and associate, Mary Dyer, she walked out on a sermon by the Rev. John Wilson in Boston. She urged others to do the same when the ministers swayed from "the true course."

Ultimately, as the risk of the Massachusetts Bay colony splitting apart grew, there came to be accusations against Anne and her followers. Anne's brother-in-law, John Wheelwright, denounced the ministers and said that the wrath of God would descend on Massachusetts Bay unless there were changes. His outburst was claimed to be seditious and he was put on trial. Anne and about 70 of her followers signed a petition opposing Wheelwright's conviction. The signatories were forced to give up their weapons and they were threatened with banishment from the colony.

In November of 1637, Anne was put on trial, charged with "traducing the ministers and their ministry." In her dramatic defense she claimed that it had been revealed to her that the entire Massachusetts Bay Colony would be destroyed of the leaders continued to persecute her for speaking the truth.

Anne was convicted, imprisoned and sentenced to be banished from the colony along with a number of her supporters. The group of banished Bostonians gathered on March 7, 1638, and agreed to the following Compact for their new colony:

"We whose names are underwritten do here solemnly in the presence of Jehovah incorporate ourselves into a Bodie Politick and as he shall help, will submit our person, lives and estates unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and all those perfect and most absolute laws of his given us in his holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby." [Click here to see a picture of the Portsmouth Compact Memorial by my cousin & friend, Elliot J. Wilcox; scanned by Sam Behling]

Among those signing the Compact were William Coddington, one of the richest men in Boston, Dr. John Clarke, Samuel Gorton and William Hutchinson. A committee under Clarke had been searching for a site to which they could relocate, including Long Island and Delaware.

They met with Roger Williams who had himself been banished from Massachusetts Bay in 1636, establishing a settlement at Providence. With his help they bought Aquidneck Island from the Sachems of the Narragansett Indian tribe, Canonicus and Miantonomi. The price was 40 fathoms of white beads, 10 coats and 20 hoes. The first settlement was around the Town Pond in the vicinity of the Bay Pointe Inn today. Part of this pond still exists in that area, but the bay side was filled in during the 1940's.

The first recorded town meeting at Portsmouth was on March 13, 1638. There the construction of the first meeting house was authorized. This colony was led by William Coddington and, to a degree, the spiritual leadership of Anne Hutchinson. They, along with Samuel Gorton, each had their own followers.

The Portsmouth colony was based more on farming than on religion. Large farms were laid out early and commercial crops, especially corn, peas, beans and tobacco were grown and livestock was raised. It was not easy to be admitted as a freeman in this colony, because the increase in their numbers meant a potential reduction in the size of the existing farms.

Farming on Aquidneck Island was successful from the beginning, and it soon became evident that it would be necessary to develop a port to ship produce out. In addition, there developed religious differences between some of the leaders of the colony.

William Coddington had been a very wealthy man in Boston and among the political leaders there. He had been a member of the Boston Court that had expelled Roger Williams. Coddington was, in William's view "a worldly man" who was most concerned about his own profit and power. He later was to adopt the religious beliefs of the Quakers.

Because of the need for a deep water port and the religious differences, Coddington, Clarke, Nicholas Easton, William Baulston and five other leaders of the Portsmouth colony moved south in 1639 and established Newport. By the end of that first year, 93 people were residents of Newport, and its numbers were growing dramatically.

Meanwhile in Portsmouth, William Hutchinson was elected leader of the settlement. He seemed to be a mild-mannered man dominated by his wife, Anne. He was elected assistant to Governor Coddington of the Rhode Island Colony in 1640 and died in 1642.

His wife was afraid that the Massachusetts Bay authorities would try to gain control of the Portsmouth settlement. In 1643, therefore, she took the younger part of her family and moved to the Dutch Colony of New Netherlands (New York), settling at Pelham Bay (the Bronx today). Because the Dutch had antagonized nearby Indians that year, the Indians rose up an attacked settlements beyond the walled protection of New Amsterdam (New York City). Anne and all but one of her children were murdered by the Indians an 1643. The unharmed child was adopted by the Indians for a while.

Anne Hutchinson's role in the founding of Portsmouth was important. She was the lightning rod that attracted some of the most prominent men of Boston. It is noteworthy that although it was for religious reasons that they came here, there developed such differences that it does not appear that they constructed a church of any kind. It is known that Anne Hutchinson continued to hold religious services in her home while at Portsmouth.

There are differing opinions as to Anne's influence here. Edward West, writing in 1939, said, "While it is to Anne Hutchinson that the credit of the founding of Rhode lsland must be given, for it was the quality of her disarmed followers that led to the founding of a separate colony . . . more or less it is to William Coddington that the credit of the actual founding of the colony must be made, as it was through his wealth and influence . . . that other men of influence settled there."

In spite of this, however, the important role of Anne Hutchinson cannot be denied. After all it was she who led a group of her supporters to Aquidneck Island. She was a dynamic person, a woman of great faith and one whom others were willing to follow to this island in the wilderness.

She is worthy of being honored and the plaque being dedicated to her on April 27 is, in fact, a little more than three hundred years overdue.



NEW!! American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante, Hardback, Published by Harper, San Francisco, Publication date: March, 2004. The newest, most up to date biography of Anne Marbury Hutchinson with details previously unpublished. Written by an 11th generation descendant. A must read for anyone related to Anne Hutchinson or anyone interested in this very first founding mother of the American colonies.

Divine Rebel by Selma R. Williams. This title is out of print, but this is a great book written about Anne Hutchinson and another must read for any descendants. can help you find it. See How to Order Out of Print Books

Anne Hutchinson: Unsung Heroine of History by Bianca A. Leonardo, Winnifred K. Rugg, Paperback, Published by Tree of Life Pubns, Publication date: January 1996

Anne Hutchinson and the Puritans: An Early American Tragedy by William Dunlea, Paperback, Published by Dorrance Pub Co, Publication date: November 1993

The Antinomian Controversy, 1636 - 1638: A Documentary History by David D. Hall (Editor), 2nd Edition, Hardcover, Published by Duke Univ Pr (Txt), Publication date: November 1990. Also available in paperback

Prophetic Woman: Anne Hutchinson and the Problem of Dissent in the Literature of New England by Amy Schrager Lang, Reprint Edition, Paperback, Published by Univ California Press, Publication date: March 1989

Anne Hutchinson, Guilty or Not? : A Closer Look at Her Trials (American University Studies: Series IX: History, Vol. 146) by Jean Cameron, Hardcover, Published by Peter Lang Publishing, Publication date: March 1994

Anne Hutchinson (American Women of Achievement) by Elizabeth Ilgenfritz, Nancy Shopre, Nancy Shore, Reading Level: Young Adult, Library Binding, 111 pages, Published by Chelsea House Pub (Library), Publication date: December 1990

A Matter of Conscience: The Trial of Anne Hutchinson (Stories of America) by Joan Kane Nichols, Dan Krovatin (Illustrator), Reading Level: Ages 9-12, Paperback, 101 pages, Published by Steck-Vaughn Company, Publication date: May 1996


Click here to see Marbury lineage.
Click here to read about Anne's friend, Mary Dyer.
Click here to read The Diary of Anne Hutchinson written by a 5th grader!
Transcript of Anne Hutchinson's Trial
Click here for more information on Rhode Island
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