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Unafraid: A Life of Anne Hutchinson by Winnifred King Rugg - A Book Review


Written in 1930 and published by Houghton Mifflin Company, Unafraid: A Life of Anne Hutchinson, by Winnifred King Rugg, tells the story of Anne Hutchinson’s life. In this bibliography, Rugg introduces Hutchinson’s life beginning with her father and the influence he had over her education, religion, and lectures. Rugg describes Hutchinson’s closeness to her parents and siblings, and how she was trained by her mother to manage a household and nurse the sick. As Hutchinson grew into a young lady, Rugg describes her love life, marriage, and how Hutchinson became influenced by John Cotton. Rugg then describes how Hutchinson’s infatuation with Cotton led her and her family to the New World. Settling in Boston, Hutchinson becomes a midwife, preacher, and a moral supporter to the other women in the colony, leading to jealousy from both men and women alike, causing tensions between Hutchinson and the leaders of the colony.[1]

These tensions, which Rugg describes as religious, female, and male pride, initiated distrust toward Hutchinson, which led leaders to investigate Hutchinson’s behavior and unnatural preaching and leadership. This led to issues between herself, John Winthrop, John Wilson, and John Cotton. Rumors and distrust led to Hutchinson’s trial. The three pastors: Winthrop, Wilson, and Cotton accused Hutchinson of sin by not following their own structural beliefs. Although, Hutchinson was a strong independent woman and was never challenged by her husband, family, or by her supporters, Rugg argues that it was Hutchinson’s bold attitude and mannerisms, not her own independent beliefs, that led to her dismissal.[2]

Back and forth, Rugg describes the issues of “The Church of Christ” in Boston, and how the Church struggled to let the Hutchinson case die. Rugg describes how the Boston Colony continued to write letters, among each other, especially the leaders, about Hutchinson’s sinful and unladylike airs. Thus, they continued to harass Hutchinson and the new colony which her and her supporters built. After her husband died, Rugg explains how Hutchinson left Rhode Island and moved to a Dutch colony where she began preaching to Indians. A war eventually broke out, and Hutchinson once again found herself in the middle of another conflict.[3]

As Rugg describes the story and life of Hutchinson, she transports her readers to the Old and New Worlds of Early Colonial times, describing how society functioned. Rugg explains in detail the social and religious issues that surrounds Hutchinson, Winthrop, Wilson, and Cotton. But most importantly, she explains the hardships that the women faced in the colony, and why they clung to such a powerful woman as Hutchinson. Here readers can feel the cold winter winds, the social boredom, and the monotony of colonial life. But the best part of Rugg’s writings is how she explains, in detail, how religious beliefs turned Hutchinson and Winthrop against each other. Rugg writes simply and creatively and gives plenty of information to the situations that formed in Boston. She allows her readers to choose who was right or wrong. She never betrays one person as a victim or perpetrator, telling the story through primary sources from Winthrop’s writings to other letters from the people in the New World. As such, this is a great book for those that want to learn more about Hutchinson and her life in the New World.

[1]. Winnifred King Rugg, Unafraid: A Life of Anne Hutchinson (Cambridge, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930), 21-30, 44-50, 60-76, 79-84, 94-101, 121. [2]. Rugg, Unafraid, 102, 104-111, 112-114, 121, 123, 125, 127,128-136, 138-139, 141-142, 144-145, 149-155, 158-159, 161-165, 171, 178, 182-183. [3]. Rugg, Unafraid, 184-189,192, 194-196, 199-200, 202-205, 207-209, 211-215, 218-248, 250-251.


Rugg, Winnifred King. Unafraid: A Life of Anne Hutchinson. Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1930.


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