Peter Kaplon History 204 09/20/10 Book Review Puritan Prophet The book Anne Hutchinson: Puritan Prophet, by Timothy D. Hall, tells the story of a strong-willed woman whose faith and intellect brought her about to play a major role in early New England Puritan life. Hall tries to answer many questions surrounding Hutchinson throughout the book to try and bring clarity to a powerful historic event. The main question concerning Hall, in this book, is “what should we make of this remarkable woman and her tragic fate? ” (Hall, 2).
Hall plots the story of Anne Hutchinson in chronological order throughout the book, while using sources from not only historians of today, but also from firsthand accounts of people who lived during that time period. For example, Hall uses many references and quotes from John Winthrop’s Short Story of the Rise, Reign, and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists, and Libertines. In order to understand who Anne Hutchinson is, we have to understand where she came from. Timothy Hall does a great job of setting the scene for his readers during the first chapter of this book.
Anne was born during the Protestant Reformation in England to Francis and Bridget Marbury. Francis was a charismatic preacher who believed in the Puritan way but was forced to conform to the English Church and their practices to avoid persecution. Anne’s mother and father would bring her up to be well educated not only in the Puritan beliefs of the bible, but also in midwifery and healing. Anne eventually would marry William Hutchinson who would turn out to be an understanding and loving man, despite the problems that would soon arise from his wife’s actions.
The Hutchinson’s began to assemble quite the Puritan family and would soon join many others Puritans in the trek to America in order to avoid religious persecution. Anne Hutchinson’s main reason for leaving was because she now lacked a teacher and guider for her Protestant views, which were essential in her and her family’s lives, when John Cotton left for the New England colonies. When the Hutchinson’s got to New England they established their home in the Massachusetts Bay area of Boston. Anne quickly became a member of the Boston church which was led by John Wilson and her aforementioned teacher John Cotton.
Anne was almost not deemed a member of the church because of a disagreement during the sail over with Reverend Zachariah Symmes over his view on bible readings. This was just the beginning of the displeasure Anne had towards religious views in her new community. Hall explains that Anne would soon prove to be a great leader in her new home town and because of her skills in midwifery and healing, she became a valued member. She would stand in on many childbirths to help other families and before long would hold weekly meetings to discuss bible readings and interpret those readings.
These meetings would soon be the downfall of Anne however, as the community began to argue more and more over the issues of “free-grace” and what it meant to be truly saved by God and gain assurance. Hall seems to separate, in a brilliant way, the people he calls “sanctificationists” and the “free-grace” believers throughout the book. The issues surrounding these two groups would change the Massachusetts Bay colonies forever, and eventually lead to the banishment of Anne Hutchinson, and her family, from the colony.
The “sanctificationists” were a group that Hall described as a “party which based assurance on evidence drawn from a sincere convert’s life of faith. ” (Hall, 63). People from this group included Governor John Winthrop, Deputy Thomas Dudley, and Reverends Thomas Shepard, Hugh Peter, John Wilson, and Thomas Weld. The “free-grace” supporters were described by Hall as a “party which rallied around John Cotton’s insistence on the “witness of the spirit” for assurance. ” (Hall, 63). This group included members such as John Cotton, John Wheelwright, Sir Henry Vane, William Coddington, and Anne Hutchinson.
Hall never really sides with either group as to which he thought was right, but does seem to argue points for both. The “sanctificationists” would eventually win the debate as to what views the colonist’s churches would be governed by, and Anne Hutchinson would eventually be banished from the community and forced to cut all ties with the church of Boston. This was not an easy win however, as Anne showed incredible wit and knowledge during her trial, but there were just too many people in the community who did not side with her.
Although Hall never picks a side as to who he thought was right, he does seem to show sympathy towards Anne and the cruel fate she was dealt. In my mind Hall answers his question as to who Anne Hutchinson really was throughout the entire book. She was a loving, passionate woman, who stood up for what she believed in and in many ways, as Hall described her in his preface, she was “the first American woman – bold, independent, self confident, articulate, assertive of her rights in the face of those bent on denying them. ” (Hall, ix) Works Cited 1. Hall, Timothy D.. 1st ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc. , Longman, 2010. Print