Anne Hutchinson (1591-1642) is considered one of America’s first feminist. She was a spiritual leader that challenged male authority, challenged gender roles, and questioned the Puritan beliefs about salvation.
Hutchinson was born in England, and although she did not have a formal education like most females of her era, she was taught how to read scripture. This sparked a love of reading and a life of learning. She married William Hutchinson at age 21 and had 15 children between 1614-1630. When Hutchinson was in her early forties she migrated with her family to Boston.
Because of her training as a midwife, she easily connected with the women in her area. She began holding meeting in her home to share the teachings of Reverend John Cotton whom inspired her to think for herself and reframe some of the Puritan beliefs. Her meetings became very popular with men as well as women.
Religious leaders were threatened by her popularity and her message. They did not like that she dared to see herself as an equal to men, they objected to her refusal to remain silent and her insistence that she had a right to preach. They were afraid that other women would rebel, that women would think they had a right to an opinion and a right to greater equality in the church and in at society at large.
It wasn’t long before Hutchinson was tried for heresy in what is often referred to as Antinomian Controversy. As a woman, she had over-stepped her place. In March of 1638, Hutchinson was banished from the colony and excommunicated from her congrigation.
Looking at the history of religious freedom in the American colonies, we have Hutchinson to thank for being a cornerstone for the idea of religious tolerance. Thanks to her courage to speak up, the seeds were planted for future women to serve in ministry.