A History
of the


Excerpt from Chapter One: In the Beginning

Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer

from A History of the American Suffragist Movement

Anne Hutchinson preaching
Anne Hutchinson preaching


More than 200 years before Seneca Falls, a woman named Anne Hutchinson defied the dominant leadership and exercised her right to free speech. In 1637 the theocrats who ran the newly founded colony of Massachusetts tried and convicted Hutchinson of sedition because her religious ideas did not agree with theirs. Her brand of feminine spirituality was proving more popular than their harsh theology, and when prominent young men exhibited their respect for this female leadership, Hutchinson was banished. At age 46, heavily pregnant for the twelfth time, she accepted exile rather than surrender her independent ideas. It literally cost her life; ...[she] and most of her children were killed by Algonquins in the Long Island Sound area where she settled after banishment from the safety of Boston.

Although shamefully few Americans know it, an even more powerful case for female participation in the exchange of ideas was made by Hutchinson's friend Mary Dyer. The only person courageous enough to protest when Hutchinson was excommunicated from their Boston church, Dyer returned to England in 1652; there she converted to the newly founded Society of Friends, more commonly called Quakers. While she was abroad, Massachusetts and Connecticut passed laws banning Quakers, and Dyer was exiled from both colonies upon her 1657 return. Although she could have remained safely in more liberal Long Island, she defied convention--and the pleading of her husband and sons--to repeatedly return to Boston to preach her vision of a loving, egalitarian God. On 1 June 1660 the theocracy of Massachusetts, which was both church and state, hanged Mary Dyer.

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