Definitely, and without knowing it, the godmother of this movement is Anne Hutchinson, then known as the “American Jezebel”.
Said to be related to Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, and Edward I of England, she was the daughter of an Anglican minister in London; born in 1591, in Alford, England, and only making her way to New England at 43, coming after her pastor in 1634. She docked on the harbors of Boston with her husband, and ten children, in tow, but don’t think lowly thoughts, as William Hutchinson was a wealthy mercantile businessman.
At the time, she was a student of Puritan minister John Cotton, who preached Free Grace theology, which believed anyone to be free from sin, receiving eternal life, once they accepted Christ as their personal savior. While many believe that to be the standard tenant of Christianity, it brings up the problem of grace earned, over inherited.
John Cotton felt, because of his religious views, to be persecuted by the Church of England, and "impressed by the evidence of divine providence" in the Americas, hit the sails to what many considered the New Jerusalem.
When he left England, she followed.
After the move, Mr. Hutchinson did well, and bought property, building one of the largest homes on the Shawmut Peninsula. It stood there until the Great Fire of 1711, which destroyed much of what is currently downtown Boston.
Most in the area began to know Mrs. Hutchinson as an available midwife, who also taught in spiritual manners, and moral matters, through a Bible studies class. In her home studies, she would often point out that good works would not get you into Heaven, and only "an intuition of the Spirit" would open the Pearly Gates. She would often remark on how God has no mind on what we do in the here and now, so long as we accept his salvation.
Word got back to the church elders, and all unauthorized classes were ceased, which began the Antinomian Controversy.
In 1635, at Jon Cotton’s home, several ministers confronted Cotton and Hutchinson concerning their “free grace” views. Though the two thought they left the meeting walking on common ground, Hutchinson, and a handful of supporters were dragged into court for heresy.
When writing of this time, in his 1651 book, Of Plymouth Plantation, Plymouth governor, and a scrivener on the Mayflower Compact, William Bradford, claimed that many in the area had returned to paganism, witnessing characters dance around the maypole, inviting the Natives to join them, as if they had revived “the beastly practice of the mad Bacchinalians.” He condemned the debauchery of “drunkenness and uncleanness; not only incontinency between persons unmarried, but some married persons; acts fearful to name, such as sodomy and buggery, have broke forth across this land.”
Even her mentor, John Cotton, once wrote Hutchinson's meetings were a “promiscuous and filthy coming together of men and women.”
While her prosecutors focused on theological issues, many are certain these attacks were in part due to the fear of a woman’s role in church affairs; she had failed to learn her place in Puritan society.
Already excommunicating and banishing other “free grace” preachers of the church, such as Reverend John Wheelwright, the General Boston Court set way to exile Anne.
Hutchinson, labeled “an instrument of the devil”, was found guilty in 1637. After a winter house-arrest, and with no supporters left locally, besides her immediate family, she was brought before a church court, as the previous trial was only a civil matter. In the earlier trial, they dug into what she had been doing to society, now they were going to look at what she had done to religion.
Of course, the Puritan Church handed her a guilty verdict, and she was now branded with the title of heretic, too. She was given three months to pack her bags, and get out of town.
Many of those who had heard the good word, and knew trouble was coming, migrated to what is now Providence, Rhode Island. When Hutchinson was released, she was accepted there with open arms, but not before a six-day walk - with her kids, and in April snow - from the Boston area. Sadly, her reputation followed, and the local magistrates started getting nervous as to what trouble she could start there, as she mingled with people of power. The family moved to Portsmouth, were her husband died in 1639, and, in 1642, her and six children moved south to New Netherland.
The following year, during Kieft's War, where the Encyclopedia Britannica wrote as “an event regarded by some in Massachusetts as divine judgment,” Anne (and most of her children) were killed by Siwanoy tribe members, in what later became the Bronx borough of New York City.
Today, Hutchinson is remembered much differently than she was, as the engraving on her bronze statue in front of the Massachusetts State House reads it was placed there for her work as a “courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.”
In a Harvard Magazine article on Hutchinson, Harvard Divinity School theologian, Peter Gomes, called her “deft in theological and legal sparring, intellectually superior to her accusers, and a woman of conscience that yielded to no authority,” and going on to say she would be more at home in the Harvard of today than any of her critics.
She was also immortalized in the first chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (1850), as “the sainted Anne Hutchinson,” as was her struggle in the 1980 play Goodly Creatures by William Gibson, and, more recently, in Dan Shore's opera, Anne Hutchinson.
The spot in the Bronx, where she was supposedly to have died is marked by a huge broken boulder, called Split Rock.
In the 1950s, New York City officials were persuaded by Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, head of the Bronx Historical Society, to move the planned building of I-95 just a tad north, so as to save that sacred spot from being blown to bits by construction dynamiting, and now Split Rock is located on a triangular piece of land in between I-95, the Hutchinson River Parkway, and the northbound Parkway ramp leading to northbound I-95.
There are two ways to visit: one legal, the other, not so much.
One can use the pedestrian trail that begins on Eastchester Place - crossing under I-95, following the trail beside the northbound lanes of 95, and then rising to share the overpass (crossing over the Hutchinson River Parkway), and ending at the boulder.
The other way is a little more exciting, and - even though you can see a lot of local wildlife - is discouraged.
Parking at Split Rock Golf Course, you head to the west end of the course (under the railroad overpass), and follow the horse bridle trail northward. About 1 mile in (1.6 km), you will notice the northward fence of the golf range meets a westward fence. That chain-linked fence corner points to Split Rock, but you’ll have to illegally cross the entrance ramp to I-95 to get there.
Split Rock is an elongated, dome-shaped granite boulder, about 25 feet (7.6 m) long, by 15 feet (4.6 m) wide. The rock was moved here from Canada possibly around 15,000 years ago, and cracked around 10,000 due to heat stress.
A bronze plaque, which is now gone, was placed there in 1911, reading:
Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1638, because of her Devotion to Religious Liberty. This Courageous Woman sought Freedom from persecution in New Netherland. Near this Rock in 1643 She and her Household were Massacred by Indians. This Tablet is placed here by the Colonial Dames of the State of New York.
ANNO DOMINI MCMXI Virtutes Majorurn Filiae Conservant
Though the plaque has been removed due to vandalism, the rock, pushed there thousands of years ago, will probably stay there, split as it is, forever - dual and eternal - like Anne’s legacy.
If you’ve headed there by car, and are still in the mood to see large rocks, check out Glover’s Rock on Orchard Beach Road, just before it meets Park Drive.
A rare white-granite glacial boulder, it is the spot where, during the American Revolutionary War Battle of Pell's Point, Colonel John Glover reputedly stood to watch the British forces. On October 18, 1776, he and 600 patriots held off advancing troops, so General George Washington could regroup, and lead his troops to victory.