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American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne…
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American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who… (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Eve LaPlante

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Title:American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans
Authors:Eve LaPlante
Info:HarperOne (2005), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante (2004)

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I ultimately was disappointed to find a book that somehow managed to make reading about a woman with such an interesting life boring.

Anne Hutchinson was what I like to think of as a quiet rebel. She did things like hide the birth of a grotesquely malformed stillborn so that the mother wouldn’t be judged by the community as somehow entangled with Satan or being punished by God. She led Bible studies/prayer meetings in her home, and these groups she led didn’t consist of just women. Men sought her out for advice and knowledge in these groups in a culture where women were only supposed to advise other women. Most fascinating to me was the dynamic between her and her husband. He clearly loved her and gave her basically the reins over their lives. He was known as a quiet person and happily stepped back and let her make the noise. When she was banished, instead of complaining, he just packed up and moved with her to Rhode Island. It’s not that I think that’s the ideal marriage but I do think it went directly against the gender norms of the time, and they were both brave for being true to themselves and what worked best for their own relationship.

However, the writing in this book somehow managed to take such an interesting woman and bore me to tears. I dreaded picking up this book. I eagerly anticipated when the author would quote primary texts because they were exponentially more interesting than her own. The other issue I had with the book was that the author is a descendant of Hutchinson and clearly lets this bias her own perception of Hutchinson the historic situation. On top of this, there’s a lot of talk about genealogy (far too much for my taste), and sections read like someone writing a family history for their own family, not for public consumption. I understand being interested in someone you are descended from, but who you are descended from doesn’t automatically make you a cooler person. People who are proud of themselves because of who they happen to be descended from infuriate me to no end. Do something worthy of being proud of yourself. Don’t rest on your ancestor’s laurels.

Overall, while the historic facts are accurate and Anne Hutchinson herself is an interesting historical figure who deserves to be talked about, the writing of this book is boring and it is colored by the author’s obsession with being descended from Hutchinson. Readers interested in Hutchinson should consider looking elsewhere, perhaps starting with Unafraid: A Life of Anne Hutchinson, which is available in its entirety thanks to Hathi Trust Digital Library.

Check out my full review. (Link will be live May 23, 2016).

*initial thoughts*
Well-researched and factual BUT a huge bias from the author being a descendant of Hutchinson (and clearly very proud of that). There's also far too much talk about genealogy for my taste. Sections read like someone writing a family history for their own family, not for public consumption.

Even ignoring that, though, Hutchinson had a very interesting life and yet the text is really boring to read. It's just shoddily assembled. ( )
  gaialover | May 20, 2016 |
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! ( )
3 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 |
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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
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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.

(summary from another edition)

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