A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


Anne Hutchinson

A woman of haughty fierce carriage, a nimble wit and an active spirit, and has a very voluble tongue, more bold than a man.--John Winthrop on Anne Hutchinson

The story of Anne Hutchinson is difficult of understanding by our generation. We take our religion more lightly—but perhaps not less reverently and lovingly—than the gaunt and stern Puritans who came from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in order that they might have liberty to worship God as they thought fit and power to deny the same liberties to everyone else.  Her revolt was not against the accepted creed; indeed, she was a much a Puritan as the governor who exiled her.  Her only crime was that she wanted to bear an equal share with men in the great affairs of the moment.

Anne Hutchinson was the daughter of a clergyman; she was born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1615. A Puritan, Hutchinson emigrated with her husband to America in 1634. She was 43 years old at the time. Hutchinson settled in Massachusetts Bay, where she soon obtained a following as a preacher, but also managed to anger a number of powerful people, specifically the clergy.  Her crime was holding weekly meetings in her home to discuss the scriptures and theology.  At first, her meetings were attended only by women, but later men began to attend the meetings as well. 

Hutchinson began to claim that good conduct could be a sign of salvation and affirmed that the Holy Spirit in the hearts of true believers relieved them of responsibility to obey the laws of God. She also criticized New England ministers for deluding their congregations into the false assumption that good deeds would get them into heaven. A devoted wife and midwife,  Anne dared to speak about the right to live according to conscience and not necessarily the law. She held discussions in her home where visitors felt free to question religious beliefs and to decry racial prejudice, including enslavement of Native Americans. Expressing these beliefs was precisely what led her to be expelled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

Recognizing her potential to disrupt the Massachusetts theocracy, in March 1638, Governor John Winthrop brought her to court on charges of heresy and lewd and lascivious conduct for having men and women in her house at the same time during her meetings.  She was 46 years old, the mother of 12 living children, a grandmother, and pregnant with her 15th child when she was brought to trial, and she stood this trial alone, with no lawyer to defend her.  She faced a panel of 49 powerful men, and if convicted, she faced banishment from the colony.  Of course she was convicted, and sentence of banishment was pronounced upon her. "I desire to know wherefore I am banished?" she asked and Winthrop replied, "Woman, say no more; the court knows wherefore and is satisfied."

The Hutchinsons and their supporters went to live in Newport, Rhode Island. After the death of her husband 1642, Hutchinson and 14 of her children moved to the New Netherlands.  A year later, the Siwanoy Indians burned down their house and scalped Anne and six of her children.  Only one daughter survived. 

Anne Hutchinson was a true American visionary, a  true pioneer.  Her only  crime had been  expressing religious beliefs that were different from the colony's rulers, and in the year 1637, in Massachusetts Bay Colony, that was against the law--especially for a woman. Long before the Constitution guaranteed free speech, Anne was defending hers, and although she had
not succeeded in changing the laws of her time. But her courageous actions helped set the stage for an America in which religious freedom was a reality. 

*Note:  In 1987, Governor Michael Dukakis pardoned Anne, 350 years after John Winthrop had banished her for being a woman not fit for our society.

The Hutchinson River and  the Hutchinson River Parkway in the eastern parts of Bronx and of Westchester County, New York, are her most prominent namesakes.


Women's Quote of the Day

The spirit of the valley never dies.  It is called the subtle and profound female.  The gate of the subtle and profound female is the root of Heaven and Earth.  It is continuous, and seems to be always existing.  Use it and you will never wear out.

                         (The Way of Lao-tzu)


Quote of the Day

Had there been a man behind each brilliant woman, there would have been women of achievement in history equal to the numbers of men in achievement.--Gerda Lerner from The Creation of Feminist Consciousness