The Meaning of the Trial


While the witchcraft accusations failed to directly lead to Hutchinson’s blasphemy convictions, they did drive the point that they believed an external, irreligious force was guiding the hand of this Puritan woman in the “city upon a hill.”

As Hutchinson dove deeper into her Christian faith to defend herself, she found herself in greater trouble. Running contrary to the traditional teachings of the Puritan church, she declared that she, and not the ministers in Boston, could tell who had received divine grace and who had not. It is interesting to see that the more Anne Hutchinson claimed a direct, intimate relationship with God, the more she was decried as a heretic, rather than held up as an inspirational figure or, in some sense, a prophet.

More than just a formal legal indictment of preaching publicly as a woman, Hutchinson’s trial could be characterized as an overall attack on her crossing of boundaries, and blurring the line between the spheres of men and women, which would take their true form in the next century. As in Virginia during the same period, women worked alongside men in various endeavors of necessity, including farming and other manual-type labor. Far ahead of her time, Hutchinson created a female social sphere through her two very gendered occupations: midwifery and preaching. Even while she entered the man’s world of preaching, she also created a space for women, who would follow her teachings over those of the ministers in town.


Brown, Kathleen M., Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, & Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia, (1996).

Karlsen, Carol F., The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England, (1998).


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