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Three Women of Courage
Submitted by Marjorie Alsing Trimble

 

Click on the thumbnail images to see full size pictures.

Left:  Representative Gale Candaras, Evelyn Alsing Elder, and Marjorie Alsing Trimble in front of the statue of Anne Hutchinson, State House, Boston.

Right:  Plaque commemorating Anne Marbury Hutchinson.

 

 

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Looking back on the family genealogy, I cannot help but admire and respect three courageous women who, in the very earliest days of this country, paved the way for our family.

 

The first was Mary Chilton, who at age 13 traveled to a new land with her parents, James and his wife (Susanna Farmer), aboard the Mayflower. James, a tailor in Canterbury, England, moved to Sandwich and Kent before going to Holland. In Holland he was a “Leiden Seperatist”. Leiden was no paradise for the English, records show that on April 28, 1619, at age 63 years of age, James and his daughter were stoned by 20 boys as they approached their home. Bradford mentions that many (persecuted for religious beliefs) preferred to go to prison in England rather than “endure that great labor and hard fare” of Holland. And so not only for religious reasons, but also for “economic reasons and the welfare of their children” they sailed for the North American coast. James and his wife were not to set foot in the new land, as they “Dyed in the first infection” December 8, 1620, while the Mayflower was still anchored off Provincetown. The settlers took in young Mary and it is possible she resided with the Winslows. John Winslow, who came aboard the Fortune in 1621, later married Mary Chilton and they moved to Boston in the 1650s where he became a prosperous businessman and shipowner.

Records of the Town of Duxbury identified the Plymouth Rock from a verbal story of Elder Thomas Faunce. When he was ninety-five he told a group of people he had been present when Mary Chilton came to Plymouth and visited the Rock before she died. “She set foot on it and laughed and said she was the first woman of the Mayflower to step upon that rock, and now, at seventy-five, she was stepping on it for the last time.” (There may be a minor discrepancy here as my record shows she died at age 72.)

Anne Marbury Hutchinson was born in Alford, England in 1591 and came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with her husband William aboard the Griffin in 1634. They lived in Boston where she organized and preached a “doctrine of salvation realized through the intuition of God’s indwelling in grace.” Her teachings were considered an attack on the rigid moral codes of Puritanism and the authority of the Massachusetts clergy. In 1637 she was tried by the Massachusetts General Court, found guilty and banished from the Bay Colony. Labeled an “American Jezebel” she was banished as a religious dissenter. The real motive for her persecution was that she challenged the traditional subordinate role of women by expressing her religious beliefs.

Anne Hutchinson traveled with her thirteen children on foot, to follow Roger Williams who, banished earlier, had settled in Providence. A few years later, after the death of her husband, she was forced once again, to move on to escape the long arm of Governor Winthrop as he attempted to expand the Bay Colony. Anne settled in what in now Westchester New York and was massacred by Indians in 1643, along with several members of her family residing in the wilderness with her.

Ironically, her majestic statue now stands before the State House in Boston, where the Massachusetts General Court meets, the very court that cast her out. The inscription on the statue reads: “ A courageous exponent of civil liberty and religious toleration.”

Susannah North Martin was born in England in the late 1620s and came with her father George Martin, to settle in Amesbury. Rumors had circulated that she was a witch for many years but there is no documentation that any of her accusers had complained to the authorities prior to May 1692. After contesting her father’s will in the courts, she may have been considered to challenge to the system of male inheritance. Women who refused to accept their place in New England’s male dominated social order were not only considered sinful but their attitudes were considered to be evidence of witchcraft. She may certainly have had a sharp tongue and even have used these (alleged) accusations to her advantage with her more credulous neighbors, but she protested strongly at her trial that she “was a virtuous woman who had led a most holy life”. Her final words were “Amen, Amen, a false tongue will never make a guilty person”. Nevertheless, on July 19, 1692, Susanna Martin was hanged for having steadfastly maintained the truth. A plaque at the site of her home reads “ Susannah Martin, an honest, hardworking, Christian woman accused as a witch, tried, and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. A martyr to superstition.”

Hundreds of documents, papers and books have been written about these courageous women and I am indebted to all those who brought them to life for me. To this day they stand as examples of courage, intelligence and honesty; I am proud to be a direct descendant of all three. I owe my deepest gratitude to my sister Evelyn Alsing Elder for her extensive genealogical research on these women, plus documenting a great deal more of our family genealogy.

 

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