Hutchinson of Alford


Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) was a puritan émigré to America and known as the continent’s first woman preacher. She was the daughter of the Vicar of Alford, Francis Marbury, a dissident Anglican cleric who had spent time in prison for supposedly heterodox beliefs, and who had educated her in theology. She also learned midwifery and herbal lore from her mother, useful skills when she emigrated to America with her husband and family in 1634. She held Bible studies for the Puritan women of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but her teaching was deemed too radical. Men also began to attend her meetings and in 1637 and 1638 she was put on trial for 'religious dissent'. The colony was being torn apart by the 'antinomian dispute', in which she claimed the majority of the puritan ministers were preaching a covenant of works rather than grace. She was found guilty of sedition and excommunicated, going with her husband and family to another colony, where there he died in 1642. Anne moved on to the colony at Rhode Island with six of her children; she died in a native American attack in 1643, with only one of her children escaping.

Hutchinson clearly had a sharp mind, a good ear and a clear voice. How much she was influenced while listening to her father preach from this pulpit, above, is not clear. Whether she was the turbulent trouble maker her opponents alleged, or whether she was determined to speak out against a corrupted gospel despite her sex, is not clear to me. I trust that, when those native Americans attacked and killed her, she trusted the God of grace and not the god of self.

“In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,

In the days of Jael,

The highways were deserted,

And the travelers walked along the byways.

Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel,

Until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel."

Judges 5:6-7