American Jezebel : the uncommon life of Anne Hutchinson, the woman who defied the Puritans /
Eve LaPlante.
San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, c2004.
xxi, 312 p.
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San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, c2004.
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Includes bibliographical references and index.
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First Chapter
American Jezebel
The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans

Chapter One

Enemy of the State

"Anne Hutchinson is present," a male voice announced from somewhere in the crowded meetinghouse, momentarily quieting the din that filled its cavernous hall. The meetinghouse of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a square structure of timber and clay with a thatched roof, served as the community's city hall, church, and courthouse -- the latter its role this chilly Tuesday in November 1637. Hearing the news that the defendant had arrived, scores of bearded heads in black felt hats turned to find the one woman in the crowd.

There was nothing auspicious about Anne Hutchinson's appearance as she stood in the doorway alongside several male relatives and supporters, awaiting the start of her trial. She was forty-six years old, of average height and bearing, with an unremarkable face. Her petticoat fell almost to the ground, revealing only the tips of her leather boots. Against the cold she wore a wool mantua, or cloak. A white coif covered her hair, as was the custom of the day. Besides that and her white linen smock and neckerchief, she wore all black. She was a stranger to no one present, having ministered as midwife and nurse to many of their wives and children. All knew her to be an active member of the church of Boston, the wife of the wealthy textile merchantWilliam Hutchinson, the mother of twelve living children, andthe grandmother of one, a five-day-old boy who just that Sunday had been baptized. There was, in short, no outer sign to suggest she was an enemy of the state.

Enemy she was, though, indeed the greatest threat Massachusetts had ever known. More than a few men in the room, including several of the ministers, considered her a witch. Others believed the Devil had taken over her soul. The governor, John Winthrop, who was waiting in an antechamber of the meetinghouse to begin the trial over which he would preside, suspected her of using her devilish powers to subjugate men by establishing "the community of women" to foster "their abominable wickedness."

Anne Hutchinson's greatest crime, and the source of her power, was the series of weekly public meetings she held at her house to discuss Scripture and theology. At first, in 1635, the evening meetings had been just for women, who then were generally encouraged to gather in small groups to gossip and offer mutual support. Soon scores of women, enchanted by her intelligence and magnetism, flocked to hear her analysis of the week's Scripture reading, which many of them preferred to the ministers' latest interpretation. "Being a woman very helpful in times of childbirth and other occasions of bodily infirmities, [Hutchinson] easily insinuated herself into the affections of many," an official observed. Her "pretense was to repeat [the ministers'] sermons," the governor added, "but when that was done, she would comment upon the doctrines, interpret passages at her pleasure, and expound dark places of Scripture, and make it serve her turn," going beyond "wholesome truths" to "set forth her own stuff." One minister, Thomas Weld, reported that her "custom was for her scholars to propound questions and she (gravely sitting in the chair) did make answers thereunto." This was especially grievous in a time when the single chair in every house was for the use of the man alone.

Men had begun to accompany their wives to Hutchinson's meetings in 1636, and as her audiences swelled she offered a second session of religious instruction each week, just as the colonial ministers liked to give a Thursday lecture as well as their Sunday sermon. The Reverend Weld lamented that members of her audience, "being tainted, conveyed the infection to others," including "some of the magistrates, some gentlemen, some scholars and men of learning, some burgesses of our GeneralCourt, some of our captains and soldiers, some chief men in towns, and some eminent for religion, parts, and wit." Anne Hutchinson had "stepped out of [her] place," in the succinct phrase of the Reverend Hugh Peter, of Salem -- she "had rather been a husband than a wife; and a preacher than a hearer; and a magistrate than a subject."

It was painfully clear to Governor Winthrop, who had an excellent view of her comings and goings from his house directly across the road from hers in Boston, that Anne Hutchinson possessed the strongest constituency of any leader in the colony. She was, he confided in his journal, "a woman of a haughty and fierce carriage, a nimble wit and an active spirit, and a very voluble tongue." Her name was absent (on account of her sex) from every offensive political act and document, he observed, but she was behind them all. "More bold than a man," she was Virgil's dux foemina facti, "the woman leading all the action" -- the breeder and nourisher of all the county's distempers, the sower of political and religious discord. Before Mistress Hutchinson had arrived in America, in the fall of 1634, all was sweetness and light, he recalled. Now that she was here, all was chaos.

Through a side door of the meetinghouse, the forty magistrates of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts filed into the dimly lit room. This court of no appeal, the only court available to the fledgling colony's roughly seven thousand settlers, comprised the governor, a deputy governor, seven of their assistants (chosen by the freemen to serve as the colony's board of directors), and thirty-one deputies, prominent freemen chosen by the colony's fourteen towns (forerunners to the state's legislators). The judges that day included the assistant Simon Bradstreet, of Cambridge, thirty-three, who as colonial secretary was expected to take notes; Salem's John Endicott, the righteous, forty-nine-year-old former soldier who had recentlytried to pass a law forcing all women to wear veils, as in the Old Testament; and Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley, who at sixty-one was the oldest judge.

Eight ministers in black robes also joined the procession, not to judge the defendant but to give testimony, as witnesses ...

American Jezebel
The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans
. Copyright © by Eve LaPlante. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans by Eve LaPlante
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2004-02-01:
The tale of Anne Hutchinson, the 17th-century New England religious dissenter who defied the Puritan theocracy and later founded Rhode Island, is told once again in this biography by one of her direct descendants. LaPlante offers an admiring portrait of Hutchinson, based largely on David Hall's The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History, which examines the primary text of the documents pertaining to Hutchinson's trials. LaPlante claims that the Hutchinson controversy "set the stage for our modern concepts of religious freedom, gender equality, and civil rights." Such a claim is debatable, but there is no doubt that Hutchinson was a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time. This biography covers her life as comprehensively as possible, given the source material available, and includes a chronology, genealogy, and bibliography as well as a travelog that traces Hutchinson's life in New England. Since so much has been written about Hutchinson, this book is recommended mainly for comprehensive collections; those libraries lacking a biography of this "American Jezebel" can safely purchase.-Cathy Carpenter, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Appeared in Choice on 2005-02-01:
LaPlante's biography of her ancestor, Anne Marbury Hutchinson, is a spirited attempt to bring this early American woman's uncommon life to general readers. The account offers abundant quotations from Hutchinson's two trials in the winter of 1637-38: a civil trial that banished her from Massachusetts Bay Colony and a church trial that excommunicated her. But around and amid the trial testimony, LaPlante provides some lucid theological context for understanding the antinomian controversy that rent the early Puritan community of Boston. Through flashbacks and divergent paths, she details the everyday life and environment of her characters, their genealogical origins and legacies, and the adventures the author encountered in her research. Hutchinson, in LaPlante's telling, bequeathed us not only the only lengthy record of a powerful 17th-century Puritan woman's voice, but also Harvard College, Rhode Island colony, religious freedom and toleration, a parkway, and Presidents Roosevelt and Bush. A bibliography, but no footnotes, guides readers to LaPlante's sources, which, in addition to relevant monographs, include the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, the fiction of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the archaeological excavations of privies in Boston and Portsmouth, RI. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General and undergraduate collections. K. Gedge West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2004-01-19:
LaPlante, an 11th-generation granddaughter of Hutchinson, provides a fast-paced and elegant account of Hutchinson's life and work, including the reasons that Hutchinson's teachings threatened the fabric of Puritan theology. By the time she was born, her father, Francis Marbury, had already been in and out of jail for challenging the religious authority of the Anglican priests in England. His continuing nonconformity, according to LaPlante, had a lasting impact on Hutchinson's own views of religious authority. Hutchinson also learned from the Reverend John Cotton that God's revelation to individuals occurred mystically as a kind of inner light and did not require a formal religious setting. After she moved to the colonies with her husband, William Hutchinson, she began to teach that men and women could attain salvation not through performing religious works but through this inward grace. The Puritans, who emphasized that the covenant of works was the only guarantee of salvation, charged her with antinomianism (an attack against the law of God) and with violating God's commands that a woman should not teach. LaPlante offers a stimulating account of Hutchinson's eloquent self-defense at her trial. Knowing that the magistrates had no religious or political grounds to convict her, since a woman was not a subject of the law, Hutchinson stymied their questioning. LaPlante's first-rate biography offers glimpses into the life and teachings of a much-neglected figure in early American religious history. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, January 2004
Library Journal, February 2004
Booklist, March 2004
New York Times Book Review, May 2004
Boston Globe, August 2004
Choice, February 2005
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Table of Contents
A Note on the Textp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Enemy of the Statep. 1
This Impudent Puritanp. 19
A Masterpiece of Woman's Witp. 39
Strange Opinionsp. 50
The End of All Controversyp. 70
As the Lily Among Thornsp. 82
From Boston to This Wildernessp. 96
A Final Act of Defiancep. 114
Not Fit for Our Societyp. 127
The Husband of Mistress Hutchinsonp. 139
An Uneasy and Constant Watchp. 159
A Spirit of Delusion and Errorp. 168
A Dangerous Instrument of the Devilp. 195
The Whore and Strumpet of Bostonp. 208
Her Heart Was Stilledp. 231
This American Jezebelp. 238
Exploring Anne Hutchinson's England and Americap. 257
Chronologyp. 271
Genealogyp. 274
Acknowledgmentsp. 277
Bibliographyp. 281
Indexp. 293
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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