Anne Hutchinson is described as older than Mary Dyer. (In the role
in which she appears in this play, Anne can be aged 40 - 50). As a
youngster, she is brought up in a strictly religious household in Old
In 1636-38 Anne is the centre of the 'antinomian' or spiritist
(transcendentalist) controversy which breaks out in Boston. This
controversy bemuses many, in Old England and in the Colony, hardly
insignificant but very difficult to see clearly in religious terms
today. However, it threatens to split the young Colony. Mary Dyer,
just arrived, becomes a close friend and is very influenced by the
bold, intelligent "sharp-tongued woman with the hair-splitting
theological mind and sense of personal revelation".
The controversy arises over her criticisms that the Covenant of
Good' Works (church membership, prayers, obedience to authority,
especially the clergy.') dominates the Colony, and not what she says
is the truer Covenant of God's Grace (guidance by the Divine spirit).
It seemed to the Governor that a mother of 14 children "might better
occupy herself than to be instructing clergymen about the Bible!"
She organises a discussion circle so that Boston's goodwives who
miss the First-Day sermons can hear them reported then explained (by
Mrs Hutchinson!) Sermons are compared, one kind of religious teaching
is marked off higher or lower than others, the danger of clergy
jealousies are fostered... the ripples spread around the Colony.
The more hidebound clergy are up in arms. They accuse her of
encouraging others to "look for revelations and not be bound by the
spiritual guidance of the Ministers". One goodwife's response is that
"This woman preaches better gospel than any of your black-coats that
have been at University'.
Anne Hutchinson goes on trial, and is
banished with her family and 60 supporters. As she walks out of the
church trial, the young Mary Dyer steps into the aisle in her support.
Anne moves to Rhode Island (soon followed by the Dyers); Anne's
husband dies, and she and some of her family a year later are killed
by Indians; near 'New York'.
In the play - whether Anne is ghost,
spirit or just in the mind - Mary Dyer in her isolation calls on this
dear friend, last seen nearly 20 years previous. Observations from the
1636-38 period indicate Anne has magnetism and charisma, in modern
terms. They describe her as "`bright and capable, a gifted
skilful-midwife and herbalist, socially kind and helpful to all the
women." She is "sympathetic with women troubled with morbid states"
which often occur under the new, monotonous, primitive and hard
conditions of frontier life.
She has a ready wit but, to indicate
her human foibles, she is also "impulsive and indiscreet". Her
passion, some say her ambition!, is for the spread of "a religion of
vital reality and inward power." Her beliefs cost her dearly, and
affects the Colony overall.