Anne Hutchinson's Words and Their Later Significance Essay

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Anne Hutchinson's Words and Their Later Significance

Anne Hutchinson, on trial for apparently nothing more than leading religious discussions at her house, is subjected to belittlement and unclear, if not unfounded, accusations in “The Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson at the Court at Newton.” The trial, which took place in 1637, set a standard for the future treatment of women, and subsequently their speech and writing. Because of the way the prosecution pigeonholes Hutchinson into admitting her guilt, the reverends (and thus men) gain (or keep) power over women—the power to control their women and to interpret contrived meanings from their words.

From the start of the proceedings, it is clear that Hutchinson’s only “crime” is
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Though she has broken a commandment in the court’s eyes, there are countless ways to dishonor the parents without breaking the law. By bearing false witness against Hutchinson, Winthrop is breaking a commandment (and in so doing, dishonoring his parents). Hutchinson is only asking for a clear explanation of the charges against her, but is never given a satisfactory answer. During the questioning, Hutchinson is quick with her answers, but her evident logic is not enough to keep the court from modifying its arguments:

"Mrs. H. I think I may.—Do you think it not lawful for me to teach women and why do you call me to teach the court? Gov. We do not call you to teach the court but to lay open yourself. Mrs. H. I desire you that you would set me down a rule by which I may put them away that come unto me and so have peace in so doing. Gov. You must shew your rule to receive them. Mrs. H. I have done it. Gov. I deny it because I have brought more arguments than you have" (315). The court calls for Hutchinson to “lay herself open,” but she has clearly already done so. When Winthrop argues that his argument has more weight than hers because of quantity, he has done nothing but condemn himself. She has to say less to defend herself because she has done no wrong; the prosecution has wrought more accusations because none have
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