Anne Marbury Hutchinson vs. Governor Winthrop

Article Covers
Massachusetts, United States
Year range
1637 - 1637

Anne Hutchinson vs. Gov. Winthrop {Massachusetts Bay, 1637)

Within four years of her arrival in Boston, Anne Marbury Hutchinson found herself on trial before Governor John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay General Court for holding meetings in her home where she allegedly defamed the clergy and expressed un-Puritan theological opinions. In the first part of her trial she argued the governor to a stalemate, at times reducing him to bluster at the impertinence of the woman.

Only her later claim, well into the second day of grueling cross-examination, that she had an “immediate revelation” from God, allowed the Puritan establishment to banish her with a clear conscience. Today’s feminists and believers in an individualistic spirituality take heart from Anne’s early example, but her stated willingness to defer to a convincing argument from scripture shows she was still — from our point of view if not from Winthrop’s — a good Puritan at heart.

The transcript of the November 1637 trial in Newtown is almost our only opportunity to hear her speak for herself.

   Gov. Why do you keep such a meeting at your house as you do every week upon a set day?
   Mrs. H. It is lawful for me to do so, as it is all your practices and can you find a warrant for yourself and condemn me for the same thing?....
   Gov. Well, ...there is no warrant for your doings, and by what warrant do you continue such a course?
   Mrs. H. I conceive there lyes a clear rule in Titus, that the elder women should instruct the younger [Titus 2:3-5 “The aged women ... may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed”] and then I must have a time wherein I must do it.
   Gov. All this I grant you, I grant you a time for it, but what is this to the purpose that you Mrs. Hutchinson must call a company together from their callings to come to be taught of you?
   Mrs. H. Will it please you to answer me this and to give me a rule for then I will willingly submit to any truth. If any come to my house to be instructed in the ways of God what rule have I to put them away?
   Gov. But suppose that a hundred men come unto you to be instructed will you forbear to instruct them?
   Mrs. H. As far as I conceive I cross a rule in it.
   Gov. Very well and do you not so here?
   Mrs. H. No Sir for my ground is they are men.
   Gov. Men and women all is one for that, but suppose that a man should come and say Mrs. Hutchinson I hear that you are a woman that God hath given his grace unto and you have knowledge in the word of God I pray instruct me a little, ought you not to instruct this man?
   Mrs. H. I think I may. — Do you think it not lawful for me to teach women and why do you call me to teach the court?
   Gov. We do not call you to teach the court but to lay open yourself.
   Mrs. H. I desire you that you would then set me down a rule by which I may put them away that come unto me and so have peace in so doing.
   Gov. You must shew your rule to receive them.
   Mrs. H. I have done it.
   Gov. I deny it because I have brought more arguments than you have.
   Mrs. H. I say, to me it is a rule.
   Mr. Endicot [tag-teaming for the flummoxed governor]. You say there are some rules unto you. I think there is a contradiction in your own words. What rule for your practice do you bring, only a custom in Boston.
   Mrs. H. No Sir that was no rule to me but if you look upon the rule in Titus it is a rule to me. If you convince me that it is no rule I shall yield.
   Gov. [momentarily recovering his balance] You know that there is no rule that crosses another, but this rule crosses that in the Corinthians [I Corinthians 14: 34-35: “Let your women keep silence in the churches . . . . if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home”]. But you must take it in this sense that elder women must instruct the younger about their business, and to love their husbands and not to make them to clash.
   Mrs. H. I do not conceive but that it is meant for some publick times.
   Gov. Well, have you no more to say but this?
   Mrs. H. I have said sufficient for my practice.
   Gov. Your course is not to be suffered . . . . it will not well stand with the commonwealth that families should be neglected . . . and so much time spent [at her meetings], we see no rule of God for this, we see not that any should have authority to set up any other exercises besides what authority hath already set up and so what hurt comes of this you will be guilty of and we for suffering you.
   Mrs. H. Sir I do not believe that to be so.
   Gov. Well, we see how it is we must therefore put it away from you, or restrain you from maintaining this course.
   Mrs. H. If you have a rule for it from God’s word you may.
   Gov. We are your judges, and not you ours and we must compel you to it.
   Mrs. H. If it please you by authority to put it down I will freely let you for I am subject to your authority.

Source:The Antinomian Controversy 1636-1638: A Documentary History


born 20 July 1591 Alford, Lincolnshire, England married William Hutchinson 9 August 1612 London died August 1643 New Netherlands

ANCESTORS: We know five of her eight great-grandparents, and some before that. Her maternal great-grandmother Bridget Raleigh’s ancestors include early English royalty, among them William the Conqueror and Ethelred II “The Unready.”

COUSINS: Several of her siblings had descendants.

DESCENDANTS: Related by way of the Cole, Eldred, Kenyon, and Crandall families. At least five of William and Anne’s 14 children had descendants.

--Hh219 18:13, 27 April 2007 (MDT)