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~ The Old Sachem ~ The story of Anne Hutchinson

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By Bill Stewart


Anne Hutchinson was an influential Puritan spiritual leader, advisor and religious reformer in colonial New England who challenged the religious leaders of the time. Anne Marbury was born July 20, 1591, in Alford, England. She was married to William Hutchinson from 1612 to 1641 and had four children – Susanna Cole, Edward Hutchinson, Faith Savage and Bridget Hutchinson – and 13 grandchildren.

She was one of the people involved in the Antinomian Controversy, which shook up the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She had strong religious convictions that were at odds with the Puritan Clergy in the Boston area. She was very influential to the people of the colony. Her popularity and charisma helped create a schism that threatened the religious community in New England.

Anne was born in Alfred, Lincolnshire, to Francis Marbury, who was an Anglican cleric and schoolteacher which gave her an education not usual among girls at the time. Her family followed John Cotton, a preacher, who was compelled to leave England for his liberal views.

The Antinomian Controversy concerned a religious group that argued against the religion as run by the colony and also had political differences. John Cotton was at the center of the group. The controversy involved a theological debate about the “covenant of grace” and “covenant of works.” John Cotton became her mentor and when he was ordered out of the religious faction in Lincolnshire, she and her family followed him to the New World. The name Antinomian was considered to be “against or opposed to the law.”

Hutchinson was a leader among women who were interested in how religion affected their lives. She held meetings at her house in the colony where they discussed the weekly sermons. She often criticized the local ministers, accusing them of preaching a covenant of works in opposition to the covenant as preached by John Cotton. The orthodox ministers of the colony held meetings with Cotton and Hutchinson, accusing them of preaching a covenant of works in the fall of 1636. The colony preacher community could not reach a conclusion, so the Antinomians continued their practices, which led to much controversy among the religious community.

The local leaders wanted to calm the situation so they declared a day of fasting and repentance on January 19, 1637. After this period Cotton invited a preacher who carried their views, John Wheelwright, to preach at the Boston church, and his sermon raised furor among the conventional religious community. The court in Boston accused Wheelwright of contempt and sedition, but there was no conviction. Later Wheelwright was banished from the colony and moved to Rhode Island. In opposition to the court, Anne proclaimed she possessed direct personal revelation from God and she professed ruin on the colony.

That was all the reigning church leaders could take. She was charged with contempt and sedition and was banished to Rhode Island by judge and governor Winthrop. She and her children required six days by foot in snow to reach the Roger Williams settlement.

Eventually she returned to Boston. Three United States Presidents were descended from her. She is respected today as a colonist who could preach the word of God to the populace.


(Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, who is better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)

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