DIVINE REBEL: The Life of Anne Marbury Hutchinson by Selma R. Williams

DIVINE REBEL: The Life of Anne Marbury Hutchinson

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There's genuine drama here, but much of it is spoiled by the author's bravos for her heroine and boos for the many villains. The fault is not in Williams' eager feminist sympathies but in her lack of discipline as a writer and historian. Hutchinson, to be sure, has every claim to our attention. A classic Protestant non-conformist, she had scarcely arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1634), when she stirred up a furor by holding regular meetings for women during which she preached her supposedly antinomian doctrine of direct inspiration from God. Williams grossly exaggerates in claiming that ""Anne was well on her way to banishing Original Sin from Massachusetts,"" but John Winthrop and her other persecutors were right to see in her a fundamental threat to religious and political orthodoxy. And so, as everyone knows, she was excommunicated for ""traducing the ministers"" and banished, eventually dying in an Indian massacre at Pelham Bay (1643). A martyr for our time, it would seem, and in many ways she was. The only catch is, we have a very haphazard collection of source materials to reconstruct her life from. (We have no idea, for example, what she looked like.) Williams, to her credit, usually resists the temptation to embroider fantasy onto the often irritatingly bare facts. When she comes to a blank (most of Hutchinson's youth), she supplies collateral information, and moves on. But her characteristic vices remain: naivetÉ, awkwardness, unchecked partisanship. (""The marriage of Anne Marbury and William Hutchinson proved to be one of history's all-time great romances."") A serious effort but a rather minor achievement.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1981
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston