How does Zinn use Anne Hutchinson to support his thesis?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Zinn introduces his analysis of the woman's predicament in American History with the idea that one could forget that women were a presence in the formative stages in American History.  For Zinn, the overlooking of women in American History is a part of the silencing that women in American History endured:

It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. The explorers were men, the landholders and merchants men, the political leaders men, the military figures men. The very invisibility of women, the overlooking of women, is a sign of their submerged status.

Zinn uses the case of Anne Hutchinson as an example of this process of invisibility.  The social order of the time either directly or indirectly embraced what Reverends such as John Cotton were preaching:  "For God hath put another law upon women: wives, be subject to your husbands in all things."

Like any of the groups that sought to activate its voice against the harsh Colonial order, Anne Hutchinson demonstrates how the voice of dissent was not tolerated.  Zinn uses Winthrop's own description of Hutchinson as of "nimble wit" and "more bold than a man" to display how she threatened the Colonial social and religious order with her ideas.  Hutchinson's mistreatment during her trial and banishment, as well as the punishment rendered for anyone who spoke on her behalf is reflective of Zinn's thesis how dissent was not tolerated.  Women were oppressed on political and private levels, and anyone like Hutchinson who sought to challenge this order was removed and ostracized in blunt and direct terms.


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