American Portraits

Anne Hutchinson and Courage: In the Face of Adversity

In this lesson, students will analyze Anne Hutchinson’s courageous actions to support religious freedom in the American colonies.

Founding Principles

Freedom of Religion image

Freedom of Religion

The freedom to exercise one's own religious beliefs without interference from the government is essential to the existence of a free society.

Liberty image


Except where authorized by citizens through the Constitution, the government does not have the authority to limit freedom.


In the year 1637, 200 citizens of Boston eagerly flocked to witness the trial of Anne Hutchinson. She was accused of sedition and acting in a treasonous manner against the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can you be courageous in defending your beliefs or the beliefs of others?

Virtue Defined

Courage is the capacity to overcome fear in order to do good.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will analyze Anne Hutchinson’s courageous actions to support religious freedom in the American colonies.


  • Students will read and analyze Anne Hutchinson’s role in supporting religious liberty in early America.
  • Students will evaluate Hutchinson’s courage as she stood trial.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of courage to their own lives.


Anne Marbury was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1591. Her father was an Anglican minister who developed Puritan beliefs, making him an outcast in British society. He was imprisoned for heresy before her birth. Mr. Marbury taught his children in his school in Lincolnshire until the family moved to London in 1605.

The next year, Anne married William Hutchinson, and the two began following John Cotton, a leading Puritan minister. Puritans held meetings called conventicles where men and women discussed scripture and Anne began to participate as a leader of such groups. When Cotton returned to Massachusetts, Anne and her family decided to follow him in 1634 in order to continue with their religious practices under his tutelage.

Upon arriving in Boston, Hutchinson continued with the conventicles and home bible studies. However, she began to develop a theology that stood in stark contrast to the authorities in Boston and freely expressed her radical views. Hutchinson began to disrupt or leave sermons delivered by their opponents. Eventually, she was charged with heresy, excommunicated from the church, and banished from the colony.


  • Anglican
  • Puritan
  • Heresy
  • Tutelage
  • Conventicles
  • Banished
  • Excommunicated
  • Sedition
  • Treasonous
  • Reputation
  • Flogged
  • Quakers
  • Theology
  • Midwife
  • Scripture
  • Salvation
  • Dissenting
  • “Covenant of faith”
  • “Covenant of works”
  • Vehemently
  • Revelation
  • Condemn
  • Haven
  • Divine will

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

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Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • What was Anne Hutchinson’s role in her community and church before her trial?
  • Why did Anne hold the Bible studies at her house?
  • What about Anne’s Bible studies did others believe was problematic? Why was it courageous for Anne to stand up to the men at trial?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

  • Dunlea, William. Anne Hutchinson and the Puritans: An Early American Tragedy. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Dorrance Pub. Co., 1993.
  • Fradin, Dennis B. Anne Hutchinson: Fighter for Religious Freedom. Hillside, NJ, Enslow Publishers, 1990.
  • Hall, David D., ed. The Antinomian Controversy 1636–1638—A Documentary History. 2nd ed. Duke University Press, 1998.
  • Huber, Elaine C. “Hutchinson, Anne.” American National Biography Online. Feb. 2000. American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Leonardo, Bianca A., and Winnifred K. Rugg. Anne Hutchinson: Unsung Heroine of History. Joshua Tree, California: Tree of Life Publications, 1995.
  • Williams, Selma R. Divine Rebel: The Life of Anne Marbury Hutchinson. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.

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