The Importance of Anne Hutchinson’s Trial
Anne Hutchinson is tried during a time when the colonies needed stability the most. Hutchinson subverts the patriarchal structure by almost single-handedly changing people’s beliefs in her community. Undoubtedly, Hutchinson could not alter the thoughts of the male hegemony in a short crucible. However, Hutchinson uses her prowess of the private sphere (dominated by women) to combat being manipulated and spoken for.
Anne Hutchinson leads a crusade against preaching and teaching a covenant of works as opposed to a covenant of grace. Hutchinson believes she is literally marked by the cross in her campaign to have able preachers. No Bible or other religious text can teach salvation, in Hutchinson’s opinion (336). Therefore, Hutchinson takes it upon herself to spread her knowledge to other women of the community. Hutchinson becomes the midwife and spiritual counselor to continuing the work that the English Reformation began. As regulators and promoters of the home, women during the 1600s needed to be learned in order for their household to be knowledgeable. Hutchinson uses the private sphere to promote her beliefs and disperse them quickly. Her plan works, as governor Winthrop charges Hutchinson with troubling the peace (312). Hutchinson makes it clear that the persecuted become the persecutors. As recent fleers from religious persecution, the elders of the community have quickly started persecuting one of their own for having slightly different beliefs. If Hutchinson cannot speak her mind publicly, she will conduct meetings in her home, out of reach of the patriarchy, in order to speak her mind freely on her terms.
Hutchinson demands attention and clarity during her trial and thereby undermines her male elders. Throughout the trial, Hutchinson relies on semantics and physical writings to be heard during the trial. Hutchinson creatively uses the pen, reserved for men, to prove that she has never contradicted herself (321). Mr. Wilson, along with the New England preachers, becomes less adamant about what transpired when he realizes he did not write down the actual conversation. The testifiers in the trial become gossipers as they rely on hearsay to condemn Hutchinson. Hutchinson uses the blending of public and private spheres to her advantage. For example, Mr. Simmes initially claims Hutchinson’s views are corrupt and narrow, but he soon realizes his memory starts to fail him as Hutchinson’s work to purify the church is not so different than what occurred during the English Reformation (322). Mr. Wilson views Hutchinson’s difference in belief as a scruple (323), yet the charges brought against Hutchinson are diminutive—since she is basically charge with condoning. Hutchinson questions her male elders in terms of why she is on trial and questions other aspects of her trial (313). Hutchinson subverts the idea of do not speak unless spoken to. When the governor and deputy governor attempt to put words into Hutchinson’s mouth, she quickly corrects them (318). But, just as easily, Hutchinson “can tell when to speak and when to hold her tongue” (319). Hutchinson proves she has mastered the successful techniques usually acquired by men of the 1600s.
Despite trying to change Hutchinson’s beliefs so she could be “fitting for her sex” (312), Hutchinson holds true to her initial words. Casting Hutchinson out of sight is the only way the male elders could handle Hutchinson’s resistance. Hutchinson shows the modern world that those who are of different beliefs are rarely respected for their uniqueness or silenced.
About the Author
Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, Business and Education and high school English teacher. She is the founder and owner of Stephanie J. Bradberry, LLC and former owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC. Stephanie loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.
© 2011 Stephanie Bradberry