Outrageous Women of Colonial Americaby Mary Rodd Furbee
American history is rife with stories of our founding fathers, but what of the women who lived and worked alongside these men? This fun and exciting book whisks young readers back to early America, introducing them to a refreshing assortment of brave and unique
Delightful and inspiring tales of some of the most fascinating and awesome women of colonial times
American history is rife with stories of our founding fathers, but what of the women who lived and worked alongside these men? This fun and exciting book whisks young readers back to early America, introducing them to a refreshing assortment of brave and unique American women of colonial times. Readers will be amazed by the stories of such remarkable colonial women as Mumbet, a slave who won her freedom in a Massachusetts courtroom in the 1780s; Mercy Warren, whose passionate plays about the Revolution thrust her onto the theater scene as America's first female playwright; and Peggy Arnold, the wife of Benedict Arnold, who was as formidable a spy as her notorious husband. With these enlightening profiles, Mary Rodd Furbee brings these strong and influential women to life to encourage, inspire, and delight young readers.
Mary Rodd Furbee (Morgantown, WV) is a part-time writing and journalism instructor at West Virginia University School of Journalism and has written for many publications. She is the author of five children's books, including Anne Bailey, Frontier Scout; and Mary Ingles, Indian Captive.
Read an Excerpt
The New England colonies of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire were founded by Protestant sects from England. Later they were joined by small groups of Catholics and Jews. All came here to worship their own way and build prosperous lives. Enterprising men and women settled in tidy little villages and on family farms. Industries prospered, especially shipbuilding, cod fishing, and trading in furs and slaves. Smaller shops kept busy doing printing, blacksmithing, shoe making, hat making, weaving, and more. Boston, Massachusetts, became New England's major port city.
Anne Marbury Hutchinson
Anne Hutchinson came to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1634, to shine a holy beacon of light back on immoral England. She sure didn't expect her own flock of Puritans to label her the greatest sinner in New England!
Born in Alford, England, in 1591, Anne was the oldest of a dozen brothers and sisters. Bossing them around gave her plenty of practice at ruling the roost. Anne's father, Anglican minister Frances Marbury, also taught her how to rebel. At that time, everyone in England was supposed to obey church laws and pay taxes to the official national religion, Anglicanism. Instead, Anne's outspoken father criticized the church and was jailed twice for doing so.
When Anne was 14, a joyous event took place: Her father got out of prison! Not only that, the forgiving Anglicans gave him back his minister's robes and assigned him to a London church. Bustling London, 125 miles from sleepy Alford, widened Anne's sheltered eyes! Everywhere she turned she saw fabulous mansions, packed theaters, and shops full of fancy goods. Anne also noticed that some of the women in glittering jewels, powdered hair, and low-cut necklines kicked the barefoot beggars lying in the gutters. Many of the gentlemen and merchants in stiff colors and gaudy wigs also gambled to excess and kept mistresses. Like her father, Anne thought these sinners were leading society to hell in a handbasket.
In London, a group of reformers called Puritans pushed to clean up society and "purify" the Anglican Church. Anything that smacked too much of Roman Catholicism, such as ornate crosses, incense, and colorful ministers' robes, raised the Puritans' ire. Anne's family agreed with the Puritans, but the risk of more jail time kept their lips zipped tight for a while. Besides, Anne was young and eager to start her own family. She left the agitating to others and married Will, the boy next door from back in Alford.
For 20 years, Will Hutchinson ran a business selling fabric, while Anne followed in her fertile mother's footsteps and had a dozen children. She also attended births and advised women about spiritual concerns. Many ministers would not have approved of this lay ministry, but Anne's Puritan-leaning minister, Reverend John Cotton, said, "You are doing God's work, Mistress Hutchinson!"
The roly-poly Reverend Cotton did not look like much, but he was Anne's guru. When Cotton risked his Anglican superiors' wrath by taking down the ornate altar cross and ditching his colorful robes for basic black, Anne felt a deep spiritual awakening. One day, while praying fervently, she heard God tell her that two of her young daughters would soon die and ascend into heaven.
In those days, claiming to talk directly to God was dangerous (it smacked of witchcraft). God talked to ministers once in a blue moon, but not to ordinary people. Anne knew this, yet when the prophecy came true and her daughters grew ill and died, she confessed all to Reverend Cotton. The minister wrinkled his brow and warned. "This is highly unusual Mistress Hutchinson. If I didn't know of your goodness, I would think ye an agent of the Devil. You'd best keep this under your bonnet."
Anne did keep her vision secret, which was wise because vocal Puritans were landing in the clinker right and left. In 1630, Reverend Cotton had finally had enough of Anglican restrictions and led a few hundred Puritan reformers to the New World. Four years later, Anne and her family followed him. "Massachusetts is a Garden of Eden for true believers," Anne told her children. "God will protect us from pirates and savages."
What Anne didn't know was that she'd need protection from her own kind! Although she planned to be good, something loosened her tongue. While sailing to Massachusetts, she debated religious dogma with the onboard minister--and boasted about her chats with the Lord. As soon as the ship docked, that horrified reverend rushed to see the church leaders in Boston. "Question this woman carefully before you let her join the church," he warned. "She is full of sinful pride!"
Before Anne could get herself in more trouble, Reverend Cotton pulled her aside and whispered urgently, "You're not in England anymore, Mistress Hutchinson. There we banded together to protect each other. Here you must be tactful and hold your tongue!" Exhausted from the journey across the Atlantic, Anne caved in. When the church elders summoned her to answer the charge of uttering blasphemy, Anne cast her eyes to the floor. "I had wrong thoughts," she confessed meekly. "Please forgive me." Tickled by this humble attitude, the church admitted Anne as a full member of the church.
In Boston, Anne and her family built a fine stone house near Governor John Winthrop and settled down quietly in the village of cod fishers, shipbuilders, cobblers, and blacksmiths. William Hutchinson quickly reestablished his bustling business selling cloth.
It didn't take long for Anne to learn that Puritans were bent on creating a completely sin-free society. To make sure that happened, they ruled Massachusetts with an iron fist. The General Court, which Winthrop headed, enforced scads of laws controlling everyone's daily lives. If you fell asleep, whispered, or smiled in church, watch out! A watchman might rap you lightly on the head with a long stick or tickle your nose with a feather. If a wife talked back to her husband, she might be dunked in a river or pond, tied to a dunking stool. If you stole a silver spoon, you were put in the stocks, and people threw apples and dirt at you. If you stole another, you could be hanged!Of course, all the laws in the world couldn't make people into saints, and superstrict rules inspired rebellion. During Anne's first years in Boston, small groups of heretics (those who spoke against the church) left Massachusetts or were kicked out. The renegades founded Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Connecticut. All of these rebels were men--until Anne got in on the act!
As the first woman to make waves, Anne really got the Puritans' knickers in a twist. Her troubles started when she began holding prayer meetings for the women of Boston. At first, Anne tamely repeated the ministers' sermons, but after a while, her own ideas burst free. When the Puritan leaders heard those ideas, their discomfort with Anne's independence turned to outrage! The Puritan leaders said that only an elect few could get to heaven (including themselves, of course). In contrast, Anne preached that all of the faithful would find salvation. The Puritans preached that Jesus said men were the masters of women; Anne preached that Jesus said men and women were equal.
Winthrop sputtered that Anne's unorthodox views were diabolical, and she was stepping out of her ordained place: "Women are the weaker vessel and must be silent. She must be guided by her husband and her minister!" Although powerful friends protected Anne at first, the General Court soon passed a law forbidding women to preach to more than 60 people. Anne disobeyed and was arrested.
Middle-aged and pregnant with her last child, Anne Hutchinson defended herself before the court in 1637. In spite of themselves, the 50 ministers and magistrates who heard her case were wowed by her knowledge of biblical passages. They were about to let her off with a warning when a wave of glorious victory surged through Anne. Impulsively, she blurted at the court, "I knew God would save me from you!"
At that, the offended judges did an about-face. Governor Winthrop bellowed that Anne was an American Jezebel. (In the Old Testament, Jezebel killed God's prophets and was eaten by the dogs for her wickedness.) "Mistress Hutchinson, you have been a husband rather than a wife! A preacher rather than a hearer! A magistrate rather than a subject! We offer you up to Satan and banish you from Massachusetts forever!" Winthrop pronounced.
A Quaker Martyr
When Anne Hutchinson was banished, her good friend Mary Dyer walked out of the court proceedings in protest. For that, she and her husband William were also banished from Massachusetts and settled near the Hutchinsons in Newport, Rhode Island. By 1657, Mary had converted to Quakerism, a faith that shared many of Anne Hutchinson's beliefs. In 1657, Mary decided to protest the "wicked and bloody" law that banned Quakers from Massachusetts--under punishment of death. The first two times Mary trespassed in Massachusetts, she was released. The third time, on June 1, 1660, she was hanged.
Quakers inspired by the courage of Mary's convictions continued to break the anti-Quaker laws. More people protested against the persecution of Quakers, and the King of England bowed to pressure and banned death sentences against Quakers in the colonies.
In 1638, Anne and her family left Massachusetts for the boondocks of Rhode Island. Anne lived in exile with other dissidents for four years and was friendly with the nearby Narragansett tribe. By the early 1640s, however, a worried Anne felt very unsafe. Her husband had died, and Massachusetts was scheming to take over surrounding colonies. Anne felt she'd be safer in Dutch-held Long Island and moved there with her children.
In fact, however, Anne wasn't safer at all. The Dutch director-general at the time, William Kieft, hated Native Americans and had found many excuses to make their lives miserable. In 1643, a group of tribes in the lower Hudson Valley--the Tappan, Hackensack, Raritan, Kitchawank, Manhattan, Massapequa, and others--took revenge on the Dutch colonists. They attacked settlers in outlying areas of the colony. In one bloody attack, Anne Hutchinson and five of her children were killed.
When people who never dreamed of breaking church law learned of Anne's death, they felt that colonial leaders had gone too far. A devout woman had been forced into exile--and her family slaughtered--all because she had spoken her own mind in a prayer session! More malcontents left Massachusetts for Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and other New England colonies. Anne Hutchinson's death spurred the movement toward religious liberty on American soil.
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