State House, 2nd floor
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 222-2473
Fax: (401) 222-3034
Open to the public
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Anne Marbury was born in 1591 in Alford, England. She was the daughter of an Anglican clergyman. In 1612, a year after her father died, she married William Hutchinson and soon began traveling to hear sermons of the Puritan preacher John Cotton. Cotton left England and the Hutchinsons followed him, joining other Puritans exiled in Boston. They arrived on the ship "Griffin" in 1634. William Hutchinson's cloth business prospered, and Anne Hutchinson became known for her ministrations to the sick and elderly. Her intellect and capabilities were admired. Anne began holding weekly religious meetings in her home. She had one meeting of women only, and another for both men and women. This was an era during which appearances counted greatly; austerity, piety and sanctimony were considered essential. Anne Hutchinson and her followers believed that individuals could have their own spiritual relationship with God, and interpret the Bible for themselves. These beliefs went against those of John Winthrop and the other Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Hutchinsons and those who shared their beliefs were called "Antinomians" - or persons who reject all laws - by the Puritan leadership, and were seen as a threat to the leadership of the Colony. Anne Hutchinson was put on trial twice for sedition, in November of 1637 and, again, in March of 1638. The second trial was held in Boston by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. After a trial that would be considered farcical today, she was convicted and excommunicated from the Puritan congregation. Following the trial, Anne Hutchinson and her children left the Bay Colony, heading for Providence. There they met with Roger Williams, who founded Providence in 1636. At Williams' suggestion, fellow Antinomians bought Aquineck Island and the grass on several smaller islands from the Native-American chiefs Canonicus and Miantonomi for forty fathoms of the white shells. Anne Hutchinson arrived in the new settlement that was to become Portsmouth shortly afterwards. She continued to conduct religious meetings and espouse her views concerning the relationship between individuals and God.William Coddington - the civil leader of the settlement then known as Pocasset - tried to impose his own interpretations of the "word of God" on the settlers and ruled like a feudal lord, with the settlers as his tenants. Anne Hutchinson successfully led a movement to amend Pocasset's charter that gave "freemen" the power to veto the chief executive's actions and established the positions of three "elders" to be elected to check the power of his actions. Anne Hutchinson and the freemen demanded an election for a government to replace Coddington, who left and established the settlement of Newport at the southern end of the island. The freemen of Pocasset changed the name of their town to Portsmouth and adopted a new government that provided for trial by jury and separation of church and state. William Hutchinson was chosen as the chief executive and served until March of 1640, when Portsmouth and Newport united and Coddington was elected governor. William Hutchinson died in 1642, at a time when the Massachusetts Bay Colony was attempting to gain control of Aquidneck Island. Given the outcome of her trial a few years earlier, Anne Hutchinson feared that authorities would try to apprehend her. So she and some of her children fled to the Dutch colony of New Netherland, now New York, where they settled near what is present day East Chester. But the Dutch had angered the Native Americans on Long Island, and in 1643 they revolted and massacred many of the settlers, including Hutchinson and all but one of her children. In 1922, a statue was erected in front of the State House in Boston honoring Hutchinson. The inscription on the marble pediment of the statue reads:
IN MEMORY OF
ANNE MARBURY HUTCHINSON
BAPTIZED AT ALFORD
20 JULY 1595 (sic)
KILLED BY THE INDIANS
AT EAST CHESTER NEW YORK 1643
OF CIVIL LIBERTY
AND RELIGIOUS TOLERATION
Hutchinson is considered by scholars and historians to be a leading proponent and example of the development of religious freedom. Below are some links where you can read more about her and the beginnings of religious freedom in America.
Rhode Island's Joan of Arc, by Paul F. Eno.
Rhode Island: A History, by William G. McLoughlin.
Anne Hutchinson, Puritan Rebel, by Cobblestone Publishing Company.
Report of the Commission to Memorialize the Contributions of All Rhode Island Women, 2002.
Official Chronicle and Tribute Book of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, The Providence Tercentenary Committee, 1936.