Anne Hutchinson:


Maligned Martyr or Dangerous Heretic?



Finding Anne Hutchinson among our forebearers has cast the search for our ancestors in whole new light. Of course all our ancestors this side of the Atlantic were figures in “American history,” but that does not earn the rest of them so much as a sentence in any history text. Anne, on the other hand, was a not only major figure in our country’s history, but in the earliest chapter of that history. Anne is in the history books, and many books have been written about her life.



As if that were not enough, Anne was extremely controversial. Depending on which version is read, one will find her cast as a tragic and persecuted heroine or as heretic who was not to be tolerated. Among her descendants today are undoubtedly those will have every and opposite perceptions of her.


Whatever one feels about Anne’s ideas and convictions, she was a colorful person whose life did not follow the strictest patterns of her time period. In an era when half of all babies died in infancy, Anne gave birth to 15 children, 13 of whom lived at least into their teens.[1] In a time when women were seen to belong only in the home raising children and certainly not on an equal footing with men of intelligence, Anne was blessed with marriage to a man who not only loved her, respected her, and stood by her all his days. In a time when Europeans thought little of doing away with Native Americans who interfered with what colonists saw as their rights to the territories they were claiming, Anne and her family refused to take up arms against the red men. That fact compounds the irony of the Indian massacre of her and many of her children less than ten years after she came to the New World.


No matter one’s conclusions about, it is hard to deny that she was an unusual woman for  her times, one of great intelligence and courage. She demonstrated not only an uncommon physical strength but unwavering perseverance in the face of opposition. [In a time when many women died young from the rigors of childbearing and life itself, Anne in her late 40s stood for two days on trial in a frigid meeting hall.]



Anne Hutchinson was born in Alford, Lincolnshire, England, in 1591, the oldest child {?} of Francis Marbury and Bridget Dryden. The 63-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I was nearing its end, and three years before Anne’s birth, the British navy defeated the Spanish Armada. Much had changed in England during that century, some of it a clear result of the forceful and intelligent woman who had ruled the country for 2/3 of the century. Anne was born into a family with a father who respected her intelligence and allowed her to listen in on the discussions of life and politics between him and his male friends. The first half of her growing up was spent in the rural community of Alford, but her teen years were spent with her family in London.


After her marriage to William Hutchinson on August 9, 1612, at the Chapel-Rectory, St. Martin Vintry, London, Middlesex, England, she and her husband went back to Alford to live. Fourteen of their children were born there, beginning with Edward on May 28, 1613, and followed by Susannah on September 4, 1615[2]


Conflicts with the Puritan Leaders

Not long after the Hutchinsons settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Anne began to invite the women of the community into her home for social gatherings that included discussions of the week’s sermon by the Puritan leaders. For a while, no one considered this a problem, but when they realized that Anne’s discussions were not limited to “rubberstamping” the points made in the sermons, the leaders became alarmed. They considered it heresy for her, a woman, to believe that she could understand the Scriptures on her own and that God could speak to her directly through the Scriptures rather than through the interpretation of the religious leaders.


Other beliefs of Anne’s that earned her the title of “heretic” were that she could not accept the idea of God sending people to hell, so she decided she did not believe in an afterlife, nor could she accept the doctrine of original sin. The latter Is credited to her experience not only in bearing so many “precious babies” of her own but in delivering a number of babies for her mother before she was married.


The conflicts with the Puritan leaders culminated in Anne’s being put on trial, a grueling affair during the winter in which she was required to stand for hours on end in an unheated building despite being well along in her 16th pregnancy. When she refused to back down on what she believed, she was declared a heretic and banished from the colony. The baby she was carrying did not live. Some reports claim that it was hideously deformed and that the leaders seized that as proof of her guilt as an instrument of the devil.



When it comes to Anne’s family, it can be difficult with our modern mental grid to get beyond the fact that she had so many children. Almost without exception, the accounts of her death state that she was massacred by Indians and “all her children with her, except for the youngest.” Knowing Anne had fifteen children (the 16th is not mentioned in most sources) calls up a ghastly vision of innocents being slaughtered and small bodies almost without number. However, it is quite certain that only six children died with her, and that they ranged in age from 12 to 23. One or perhaps two of the girls who died were already married, though they were still teenagers.


What casual readers don’t always pick up on is the fact that, in a family that large, the oldest children are already grown before the last ones are born. We find this a number of times in the histories of our families in past times.[3] At the time of Anne’s death, her family was well on its way to being grown. Her four oldest children were married and did not go with her when she was banished from Massachusetts. Further back, two daughters and most likely a young son had been left buried in England when the family emigrated to America. Only the 15th child, a boy named Zuriel, was born in the New World and lived at least long enough to be named. It is not clear what happened to him. Some records state that he died with the family at Pelham Bay, but if that were the case, then ten-year-old Susannah who was taken by the Indians could not be consistently referred to as “the youngest.” It is more likely that Zuriel had already died, sometime between his birth in 1638 and the massacre in 1643.


An easy way to organize Anne’s family at the time of her death is as follows: four children were adults who survived, four had died previously, one survived the massacre, which leaves six to have died with her.[4] Culled and brought together from several sources, their names and dates are as follows[5]: Edward–1613-1675 (he died in a war with a different Indian group); Susannah #1–1614-1630; Richard–1615-1670; Faith (Savage)–1617-1651; Bridget (Sanford)–1618-1698; Francis–1620-1643; Elizabeth–1622-1630[6]; William–1623-unknown[7]; Samuel–1624-1643; Anne (Collins)–1626-1643; Mary–1628-1643; Katherine–1630-1643[8]; William–1631-1643; Susannah #2–1633-1713; Zuriel–1636-unknown.


Location of the Massacre

After her husband’s death, in an effort to distance herself from her “tormentors” in Massachusetts, Anne left Rhode Island. The earliest reports I read said that she went to Long Island, where the massacre took place at a “Pelham Bay.” When I searched a New York atlas, I discovered a large area called Pelham Bay Park between the Bronx and the East River, not at all on Long Island. Bob Champlin reports he found one record that said she moved to Long Island in 1642 and to Pelham Bay in 1643. That would explain the discrepancy and also the fact that a Hutchinson River runs near the park north of Manhattan. One source says Anne is buried in “Burial Mound, Hutchinson Farm, Near Westchester, New York.” I suspect this is in the Pelham Bay area[9] and that the whole family, including young Anne’s husband William Collins, was buried in a common grave.

[1] A sixteenth, when Anne was 47, was stillborn several weeks early. More on that later.

[2] William’s parents’ names were Edward and Susannah. This Susannah died at age 16, so they gave the name again to their 14th child, born the year before they set out for New England. The second Susannah is the one from whom we are descended. Anne’s parents were Francis and Bridget, names given to later children.


[3] Hannah Compton and her oldest daughter, Annie, gave birth to eight children between them in the seven years after Annie was married.

[4] …leaving it true that all but one of the children living with her at the time were massacred.

[5] Those dying in 1643 are the ones in the massacre.

[6] Susannah and Elizabeth died, just a few weeks apart, apparently in an epidemic that swept Alford that year.

[7] There is no mention of William beyond his birth; note that another son was given his name a few years later. As with Zuriel, it is likely he died very young.

[8] There is a reported marriage for Katherine even though she was apparently only 13 when she died. Not impossible, but perhaps future information will clarify this more.

[9] I hope to confirm this location in the fall of 2001.