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I. Religious Initiative

Throughout our entire study of colonial woman we have seen many bits of record that hint or even plainly prove that the feminine nature was no more willing in the old days constantly to play second fiddle than in our own day. Anne Hutchinson and her kind had brains, knew it, and were disposed to use their intellect. Perceiving injustice in the prevailing order of affairs, such women protested against it, and, when forced to do so, undertook those tasks and battles which are popularly supposed to be outside woman's sphere.

Of Anne Hutchinson it has been truthfully said: "The Massachusetts records say that Mrs. Anne Hutchinson was banished on account of her revelations and excommunicated for a lie. They do not say that she was too brilliant, too ambitious, and too progressive for the ministers and magistrates of the colony, ... And while it is only fair to the rulers of the colony to admit that any element of disturbance or sedition, at that time, was a menace to the welfare of the colony, and that ... her voluble tongue was a dangerous one, it is certain that the ministers were jealous of her power and feared her leadership."[297]

One of the earliest examples in colonial times of woman's ignoring traditions and taking the initiative in dangerous work may be found in the daring invasion of Massachusetts by Quaker women to preach their belief. Sewall makes mention of seeing such strange missionaries in the land of the saints: "July 8, 1677. New Meeting House (the third, or South) _Mane_: In Sermon time there came in a female Quaker, in a Canvas Frock, her hair disshevelled and loose like a Periwigg, her face as black as ink, led by two other Quakers, and two others followed. It occasioned the greatest and most amazing uproar that I ever saw."[298] No doubt some of these female exhorters acted outlandishly and caused genuine fear among the good Puritan elders for the safety of the colonies and the morals of the inhabitants.

Those were troubled times. Indeed, between Anne Hutchinson and the Quakers, the Puritans of the day were harassed to distraction. Mary Dyer, for example, one of the followers of Anne Hutchinson, repeatedly driven from the Massachusetts Bay Colony, returned just as often, even after being warned that if she came back she would be executed. Once she was sentenced to death and was saved only by the intercession of her husband; but, having returned, she was again sentenced, and this time put to death. The Quakers were whipped, disfigured by having their ears and nose cut off, banished, or even put to death; but fresh recruits, especially women, adorned in "sack cloth and ashes" and doing "unseemly" things, constantly took the place of those who were maimed or killed. Why they should so persistently have invaded the Puritan territory has been a source of considerable questioning; but probably Fiske is correct when he says: "The reasons for the persistent idea of the Quakers that they must live in Massachusetts was largely because, though tolerant of differences in doctrine, yet Quakerism had freed itself from Judaism as far as possible, while Puritanism was steeped in Judaism. The former attempted to separate church and state, while under the latter belief the two were synonymous. Therefore, the Quaker considered it his mission to overthrow the Puritan theocracy, and thus we find them insisting on returning, though it meant death. It was a sacred duty, and it is to the glory of religious liberty that they succeeded."[299]