Anne Hutchinson: Foremother of the American Women’s Movement

Anne Hutchinson on trial

Anne Hutchinson, in the 1630s, dared to demand that women have equal status in the Massachusetts Bay colony.  This demand led to her leading mass meetings, then two court trials, banishment, and, finally her death.  This lesson discusses Anne Hutchinson’s life and defying the misogyny of her times. 

  • One to two class periods (45-90 minutes, depending on amount of homework). 
  • Students will discuss colonial life and the rights of women in the early American colonies. 
  1. Printed, or read from tablet or computer, Anne Hutchinson biography from the National Women’s History Museum website,  Each student needs access to this biography.  

  1. Copy of “Packing for exile” worksheet for each student.   

  1. Pencils for each student. 

  1. Lined paper for each student.  

  1. Optional:  colored pencils or markers for each student.  

  1. Pre-reading (15-20 minutes).  Students research and write the word and definition.  The teacher may decide if students can help each other with definitions, or if each student finds the words his/herself.   

  1. Vocabulary:  

  1. “Covenant of works:” The belief that, in order to be saved by God, humans should do many good works.  

  1. “Covenant of grace:” The belief that, in order to be saved by God, Jesus sacrificed Himself.  In this concept, good works are not necessary to be saved.  

  1. Dissident:  

  1. Heresy: 

  1. Theocracy: 

  1. Magistrate: 

  1. Exile:  

  1. Teacher and students now need to discuss a little about what life was like in early colonial Massachusetts.  The weather was hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than England.  The area was wild and very sparsely inhabited.  Many of the Native Americans had been killed in a plague a few years before the English settled.  Land had been cleared for farming by the Native Americans, but there were very few Native Americans in the area.  Food was very different than in England—with a focus on local food sources, such as pumpkins, squash, beans, and corn.  Familiar foods from England, such as wheat, rice, pork, and beef, were far less common.  

  1. Reading (15-20 minutes).  Split students into pairs.  Each student will read out loud one paragraph of Anne Hutchinson’s biography to the other, and read the entire article back and forth.   Students can spread out in order to hear each other.   This allows students to practice reading out loud, without the pressure of reading in front of an entire class.  

  1. Post-reading (10-15 minutes).  Each student should write down four important facts that they learned from their reading.  Students discuss in their pair what they learned.  They each write down their items on their own pieces of paper. If desired, the teacher can also lead a brainstorming session where students can volunteer specific facts that they learned.  

  1. “Packing for exile” (45 minutes, or for homework). Anne Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay colony in 1638 for her beliefs.   She and her family moved to what is now Rhode Island.  This activity has students reason what kind of things she would have taken into exile.    

  1. The worksheet has five boxes that students should fill out—one for each of eight things that Anne Hutchinson might have taken with her from Boston. 

  1. Students draw one item to go in each of the five boxes of the worksheet. 

  1. With each item that a student draws, the student writes a one-paragraph discussion in the box, below the picture, or on a separate sheet of paper. 

  1. In each paragraph, students should explain why that particular item might have been taken by Anne Hutchinson.   

  1. The items need to be SPECIFIC.  Some example answers are under the “Assessment/homework” section below. 

  1. If desired, students can color or otherwise decorate their drawings.  

Assessment / Homework

Students will complete the “Packing for exile” worksheet.  Some examples of correct answers are below.   Multiple items in each section are acceptable, as long as each one is specific.  

  1. Food (but needs to be specific, such as corn, squash, pumpkins, or beans).  This kind of food would have been more common in New England than in the Old World. 

  1. Clothing (specifically, very warm, or wool, clothing).  Winters in Massachusetts were very cold. 

  1. Bible.  Anne Hutchinson was very religious and knew her Bible well. 

  1. Other books.  Anne Hutchinson loved to read and would have also been teaching her children. 

  1. Medicines or herbs.  Anne Hutchinson was a nurse and midwife, and knew the uses of various plants and medicines (of that time period) to help with pregnancy and illness. 

  1. Childcare items (such as cloth diapers, toys, etc.).  Anne Hutchinson had 11 living children at this point, so certain items such as this would have been essential. 

  1. Writing equipment.  While nothing written by Anne Hutchinson exists today, it is reasonable to think that she wrote about her ideas.  

  1. Water.  The trip into exile took six days, so water would have been needed. 

  1. NOT acceptable:  photographs (they didn’t exist yet), any kind of technology, weapons (unless for hunting—Anne Hutchinson refused to be armed in encounters with the Native Americans).  


Future Research / Resources

The following materials are good for extensions into Anne Hutchinson’s life, her trial, and the fate of the family.   

  • Atkins, Jeannine, Anne Hutchinson's way, 1st ed., New York City: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2007.  Discusses Anne Hutchinson’s trial and moving to Narragansett, picture book suitable for school aged children.  It is fairly short—32 pages, much of which are illustrations—so it can be read out loud in perhaps 10 or 15 minutes.  

  • Kirkpatrick, Katherine, Trouble's daughter, 1st ed., New York City : Delacorte press, 1998.  Tells a fictionalized story for young adults of the massacre of the Hutchinson family and Susanna Hutchinson’s experiences among the Algonquin Indians of the area.  

  • The September 15, 2008 edition of Scholastic Junior Magazine has a reader’s theater on Anne Hutchinson, titled “Puritan Protestor,” by Jonathan Bloom. This is available in the Scholastic archives (search by name of publication and date) if your school subscribes to Scholastic magazines of any type.  

Annotated bibliography:

  • Morgan, Edmund s., American heroes: profiles of men and women who shaped early America, 1st ed., New York City : W. W. Norton and company, 2009.  A series of essays from the historian.  Chapter 7 (pages 90-101), from an essay written in 1937, deals with Anne Hutchinson’s trial.  
  • Nichols, Joan Kane, A matter of conscience: the trial of Anne Hutchinson, 1st ed. , Austin, Texas: Raintree Steck-Vaughn publishers, 1993.  Part of a series of young adult nonfiction history.   
  • Williams, Selma R., Divine rebel, 1st ed., New York City: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. This is an excellent biography of Anne Hutchinson.   

Standards- C3 and Common Core: 

C3 Standards (grade 8): 

  1. D2.Civ.14.6-8. Compare historical and contemporary means of changing societies, and promoting the common good. 

  1. D2.His.11.6-8. Use other historical sources to infer a plausible maker, date, place of origin, and intended audience for historical sources where this information is not easily identified. 

Common Core English Language Arts anchor reading and writing standards:  

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. 

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.