4. Anne Hutchinson was banished and hanged for believing in absolute grace in Puritan New England 1637-1638
At 43 and shortly after giving birth to her 14th child, Anne Hutchinson joined her merchant husband, William, and their 10 surviving children as they set sail for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Hutchinson’s were wealthy and brought with them a considerable estate and built a large 2-story home in Boston. Pious Puritans, Anne and William came to believe in “absolute grace” where all people were “infused with a Devine grace” and that God could speak anyone directly without a minister. This was a religious ideology that was different from mainstream Puritans.
Anne was a respected member of the Boston Church and community. Puritans, and others, believed that women were inferior to their husbands in all aspects of life on Earth. Speaking out of turn, defying their husband, or challenging Puritan ministers was a criminal offense. Yet, in her capacity as a midwife, Anne often offered spiritual advice to women suffering through the pains of childbirth, which killed many women, and garnered praise from Governor John Winthrop stating that she “was in the way of righteousness and kindnesse.”
Things changed for Anne when she began holding weekly prayer meetings for women in Boston. This was in direct defiance of Puritan ideology and civic laws in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Soon, Anne was charged with heresy and stood trial. She was sentenced to confinement in a house two miles from her own to prevent her from spreading any of her heretical ideas. She saw her family only a few times over the next four months.
When she arrived for her church trial, Anne was weak and sickly. The only family remaining in the colony was here eldest son. Her husband, children, and many of her supporters were forced out of the colony after her trial. The church elders, some who had already convicted her in the civil trial, removed her from the church and banished her. She joined her family and friends in Rhode Island.
During her confinement, Anne was pregnant with at least her 15th child. Shortly after her banishment, she gave birth to what the doctor described as a “handful of transparent grapes.” This gave fodder to Church and State leaders who gloated over Anne’s suffering, believing that because she did not fall in line with their Puritan ideology, God made her “bring forth deformed monsters.” Anne died in 1643 in New Netherland, present-day The Bronx.