A Question of Treatment

Perhaps the most provocative question in regards to Hutchinson and her gender is that of ‘equal treatment.’ It is clear from the brief witchcraft accusations, and the overall charge of preaching in front of men and women, as a woman–though the official crime charged was speaking ill of the colony’s ministers–that her womanhood is what made her the largest target in the ‘Antinomian Controversy.’

This line of questioning is not entirely counterfactual, as John Cotton, whom we may call Hutchinson’s personal hero, had preached the same theology, which was a driving force in both figures leaving England for the New World. Cotton would also put the final nail in Hutchinson’s coffin in the fall of 1637, when he could no longer defend her, and please the magistrates and the ministry at the same time, lest he cast suspicion on his own interest in the matter.

While the situations for these two figures were slightly different, I would argue that a man in her position would likely face a different ‘punishment.’ Roger Williams, who had then-recently established Rhode Island, simply left the colony, rather than be sent back to England on the orders of the colony’s magistrates, whereas Hutchinson, following her civil and church trials, was immediately exiled.

We will never know exactly what those men and women were thinking, but we may simply interpret patterns and make of them what we will.

Sources:

Winship, Michael P., The Times and Trials of Anne Hutchinson: Puritans Divided, (2005)

 

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