Anne Hutchinson would have been surprised if she walked into Pell Mansion today. Hutchinson was a very intelligent and strong-willed person, and she was not afraid of speaking her mind and defending her principles in face of stiff opposition. But she may have felt special and become speechless to view the special celebration, which included music, games, crafts, storytelling, madrigals and dances.
But the message is and will always continue to be FREEDOM.
Hutchinson was born in July 1591 to Bridget Dryden and Francis Marbury, Anne Hutchinson grew up in England. Her dad was a deacon at Christ Church, Cambridge and later became the rector of St. Martin's Vintry, St. Pancras, and St. Margaret's.
Francis Marbury was to perhaps have the strongest influence on Anne Hutchinson. He was a principled and outspoken man. He did not hesitate from speaking his mind on things that mattered deeply to him and as it happened there were plenty of things about the Church, its theology and clergy that bothered him and compelled him to speak out against.
Religious tolerance was at an even lower ebb in those days than in the present age. People were routinely killed and tortured for questioning Church diktats. So it required a great deal of courage to speak out the way Francis Marbury did. Not once or twice, but continuously and despite the many times he was arrested and jailed for being seditious. He was a very brave man and his daughter gained his spirit in full.
Education for women was not a burning issue in those times, but Anne Hutchinson was home-schooled and had the free run of her father's extensive library. The more she read, the more she began to examine and question established beliefs.
When she was 21, Anne Hutchinson married a merchant named William Hutchinson, and settled down to a comfortable existence as a house-wife. Well-educated or not, women didn't have too many options outside that career back then.
Anne maintained a strong interest in Church affairs, developed an affinity for the teachings of the Protestant Minister, John Cotton, and at the same time raised a family of fifteen children.
John Cotton, like Anne's father, was of the opinion that the Church Ideals had been hijacked by a corrupt and undeserving Clergy. If the Protestants were becoming as depraved as the Catholics, what was the whole point in being a Protestant? His movement to reform the Protestant Church came to be known as Puritanism.
Persecuted from all sides in England, the Puritans decided to move to greener pastures and migrated to the USA. This is how the Hutchinsons came to settle in Massachusetts. They believed that in this new land there would be no discrimination and persecution, and each individual would be free to follow his or her own beliefs.
But the grass always seems greener on the other side until you actually land on it. With no more persecution from the English Authorities, the persecuted soon forgot what that experience had been like and began unleashing their own brand of intolerance on their own people and on the Native Indian population.
Anne deplored the shoddy treatment meted out to the Natives and she resented the second-class citizen treatment given to women. For all her sharp mind, she was 'only a woman' and as such she was not expected to voice her opinions – or indeed have any opinions to voice - and take the lead in any community decisions.
Life in the Land of Liberty began to daily seem anything but free and liberal. Initially, to avoid trouble, Anne went along with the flow. But she was not the type that could knuckle down and live under oppression – she hadn't left England, just so she could have her opinions stifled over here.
And so she founded a weekly gathering of women friends and here she began airing her views without compunction. She believed that having faith was enough for a Christian – you didn't really need all the elaborate Church rituals and the rigid Church rules to get anywhere, let alone to Heaven.
Word got around and soon a lot of people, men as well as women, began coming over to listen to her forthright speeches. Soon Anne's house became an important place for exchanging and challenging ideas in the new colony.
Calling a spade a spade always makes you very popular in certain quarters – and infamous in others.
Anne's regular, free-thinking rhetoric did not do down at all well with the Puritan Clergy. She was after all questioning their authority, and, even more vulgarly, she was bringing Woman out from the Kitchen Shadows into the Well-lit Realm of Ideas. The clergy, well-versed in the story of Eve, no doubt worried about how many apples this would cause them to eat and digest; it was nothing short of an assault on their well-ordered Eden. It couldn't, of course, be allowed.
And so Anne Hutchinson was arrested, imprisoned, and brought to trial. She was judged by John Winthrop, a Puritan leader who was also the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He had a well-known distaste for women who didn't know their place and for Anne especially.
It was anything but a fair trial and at the end of it, in 1637, Anne was convicted of 'Antinomianism'. It meant she was guilty of believing that Christians were not bound by man-made moral laws.
Since Anne refused to recant, she and her family were excommunicated and ordered to leave the colony. Together with many of their friends and supporters, they left and, in 1638, settled at what is now Portsmouth on the Island of Aquidneck.
Will Hutchinson died shortly after the move in 1642, and the very next year, the new settlement was unfortunately attacked by Mahican Indians. Except one of the Hutchinson children and a few others, everyone was brutally killed.
When this news reached the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the upright folks there took it as a sign of proper and just divine retribution. Hereafter, dissent became harder and the path to tyranny and repression smoother.
Something to mull about- Every time we fail to appreciate what freedoms we do enjoy.