The Passion of Anne Hutchinson: An Extraordinary Woman, the Puritan Patriarchs, and the World They Made and Lost

Oxford Univ. Jul. 2021. 328p. ISBN 9780197506905. $29.95. BIOG
Most books about Puritan America discuss the controversy of spiritual leader Anne Hutchinson (1591–1643) from the perspective of the Puritan divines who banished her for heresy or from the perspective of other political leaders. Westerkamp (history, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz; Women and Religion in Early America 1600–1850: The Puritan and Evangelical Traditions) broadens the story to include the political and gender elements that put Hutchinson in better context. Using many primary sources, including the writings of a number of women who were Hutchinson’s contemporaries, Westerkamp offers a subtle examination of the social mores of the period. She argues convincingly that Hutchinson’s banishment was a case of male divines trying to silence Hutchinson (and other women) who were not content to keep to their place in a patriarchal society. As long as Hutchinson taught privately, the authorities were willing to keep quiet about her; but when her followers started to question the status quo, she was brought to trial.
VERDICT In situating the Hutchinson controversy within the “religious heterodoxy, social volatility, and political instability” of the time, Westerkamp broadens our understanding of early American history, especially as it relates to women and the religious experience. A worthy addition to Perry Miller’s seminal works on the period.
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