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American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante

American Jezebel (2004)

by Eve LaPlante

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In 1637, Anne Hutchinson, a forty-six-year-old midwife who was pregnant with her sixteenth child, stood before forty male judges of the Massachusetts General Court, charged with heresy and sedition. In a time when women could not vote, hold public office, or teach outside the home, the charismatic Hutchinson wielded remarkable political power. Her unconventional ideas had attracted a following of prominent citizens eager for social reform. Hutchinson defended herself brilliantly, but the judges, faced with a perceived threat to public order, banished her for behaving in a manner "not comely for [her] sex."

Written by one of Hutchinson's direct descendants, American Jezebel brings both balance and perspective to Hutchinson's story. It captures this American heroine's life in all its complexity, presenting her not as a religious fanatic, a cardboard feminist, or a raging crank—as some have portrayed her—but as a flesh-and-blood wife, mother, theologian, and political leader. The book narrates her dramatic expulsion from Massachusetts, after which her judges, still threatened by her challenges, promptly built Harvard College to enforce religious and social orthodoxies—making her the mid-wife to the nation's first college. In exile, she settled Rhode Island, becoming the only woman ever to co-found an American colony.

The seeds of the American struggle for women's and human rights can be found in the story of this one woman's courageous life. American Jezebel illuminates the origins of our modern concepts of religious freedom, equal rights, and free speech, and showcases an extraordinary woman whose achievements are astonishing by the standards of any era.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. LaPlante, an 11th-generation granddaughter of Hutchinson, provides a fast-paced and elegant account of Hutchinson's life and work, including the reasons that Hutchinson's teachings threatened the fabric of Puritan theology. By the time she was born, her father, Francis Marbury, had already been in and out of jail for challenging the religious authority of the Anglican priests in England. His continuing nonconformity, according to LaPlante, had a lasting impact on Hutchinson's own views of religious authority. Hutchinson also learned from the Reverend John Cotton that God's revelation to individuals occurred mystically as a kind of inner light and did not require a formal religious setting. After she moved to the colonies with her husband, William Hutchinson, she began to teach that men and women could attain salvation not through performing religious works but through this inward grace. The Puritans, who emphasized that the covenant of works was the only guarantee of salvation, charged her with antinomianism (an attack against the law of God) and with violating God's commands that a woman should not teach. LaPlante offers a stimulating account of Hutchinson's eloquent self-defense at her trial. Knowing that the magistrates had no religious or political grounds to convict her, since a woman was not a subject of the law, Hutchinson stymied their questioning. LaPlante's first-rate biography offers glimpses into the life and teachings of a much-neglected figure in early American religious history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Much ado is often made over the contributions of the founding fathers to the liberties Americans enjoy today, but with rare exceptions, such as the achievements of Abigail Adams and Betsy Ross, the roles women played in formulating our national philosophy are very little known. Moreover, the stories that are known include only scanty information about the players' personal history and their words. Thanks to LaPlante, at least some of Anne Hutchinson's words are preserved in this well-researched account of her testimony against charges of heresy and sedition before the Massachusetts General Court in 1637. Declared an American Jezebel by Massachusetts' first governor, John Winthrop, Hutchinson is portrayed here as a feminist and a fighter for religious freedom, who eventually was banished to Rhode Island. As LaPlante paints a fascinating portrait of this complex mother of 15 and delineates her heresy by clarifying the distinction between her beliefs and those of her Puritan adjudicators, she deftly depicts the gritty world of colonial New England, too.
  GalenWiley | Apr 6, 2015 |
Read for R/L B/C. Although I did learn something it was full of boring repetitiveness throughout. I doubt that I even want to sit through the B/C meeting. Might go just for the coffee. ;-)

American Jezebel; interesting topic but written quite redundantly about Anne Hutchinson, New England's foremother and Harvard's midwife. I don't know about others, but I was very bored by 1/3 of the way through the book. Puritan New England, not told in the best manner. A 1 1/2 star read for me and I really can't recommend it. ( )
3 vote rainpebble | Mar 11, 2012 |
Eve LaPlante actually manages to make early American bickering about doctrine interesting and pertinent. Whether one is saved by grace or by works, comes down to whether one can experience God herself, or must have God interpreted for her by the male hierarchy. Anne Hutchinson insists on her won personal experience of God, and is thrown out of Massachusetts for it. She moves on to help found Rhode Island, the first state truly founded on religious freedom. A captivating read! ( )
2 vote ziziaaurea | Oct 31, 2010 |
Themes: gender roles, religion, separation of church and state, individual freedom versus community
Setting: Massachusetts 1638 or so

Anne Hutchinson was a terrible threat to the Puritan fathers of Boston. She discussed scriptures. And she was a woman. That's really about it. She also didn't agree with them, but I think even if she had, the idea that a woman was perfectly capable of reading, writing, reasoning, and preaching was going to make them very uncomfortable, no matter what else she did.

This is a biography of Hutchinson and a story of the time and place she lived in. It includes a bit about the religious controversies involved and talks a lot about the other players in the case. She was eventually brought to trial, more than once, and charged with “traducing the ministers.” John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, conducted the trial himself and made it his mission to get her punished for her behavior. He won, eventually, and Hutchinson and her family were forced to move to Rhode Island and then to Long Island where Hutchinson died.

Hutchinson is an interesting subject, but something about this book just couldn't hold my interest. At one point I skipped ahead 100 pages and I really hadn't missed anything. I didn't enjoy this book very much. But I won't anti-recommend this book, if you know what I mean, because I think for the right reader, this would be a good book. Just not for me. 2 stars ( )
1 vote cmbohn | Jul 22, 2010 |
Okay biography. Hutchinson was quite fascinating. The biographer pushed too hard on her concept of "Jezebel," though. ( )
1 vote lysimache | Jul 6, 2007 |
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"You certainly think right when you think Boston people are mad. The frenzy was not higher when they banished my pious great grandmother, when they hanged the Quakers and...the poor innocent witches, than the political frenzy has been for a twelve-month past." - Thomas Hutchinson, Governor of Massachusetts, August 1770
To David and Rose, Clara, Charlotte, and Philip
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One warm Saturday morning in March, as I let my children out of our minivan alongside a smal road in rural Rhode Island, a part of America we'd never visited before, a white pickup truck rolled to a stop beside us.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060750561, Paperback)

The Dramatic Story of America's Founding Mother

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Recounts the life and political achievements of the seventeenth-century feminist, noting her successful reform efforts in spite of the limitations placed on Puritan women and multiple charges of heresy and sedition.

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