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Reflection on Walt Whitman’s Children of Adam Sequence

Walt Whitman’s “Children of Adam” series of poems is interesting to look at thematically because it is unlike many of Whitman’s other works.  In this sequence, Whitman writes to celebrate the human body and its sexuality, something that is not as obvious in his other works in comparison to “Children of Adam.”  As discussed in Whitman’s biography on The Walt Whitman Archive, Whitman reportedly did not intend for “Children of Adam” to “never separate from the body of the text, and he always set out not just to write about sensual embrace but also to enact the physical embrace of poet and reader. Whitman became a master of sexual politics, but his sexual politics were always intertwined with his textual politics” (Whitman Archive).  Emerson originally discouraged Whitman from publishing these poems in the 1860 version of Leaves of Grass because of its sexually explicit nature, saying that the subject matter of the collection was not appropriate for poetry.  Whitman, however, disagreed by saying that sexuality and the human body in its entirety – not just certain pieces and parts dubbed appropriate for public praise and examination – was most certainly a topic appropriate for poetry.  Whitman strongly felt “n my inmost brain and heart, when I only answer’d Emerson’s vehement arguments with silence, under the old elms of Boston Common” (Whitman Archive).  Despite the debate between Emerson and Whitman, “Children of Adam” also appeared along with the “Calamus” poems in the 1860 edition.

One thing that was striking about Whitman’s “Children of Adam” sequence was the range of emotion throughout the collection of fourteen poems.  Whitman’s speaker, who is believed to be the biblical Adam, experiences lust, romantic fondness, frustration, happiness, and infidelity at the cause of his own hands.  Speaker Adam walks the reader through the progression of human sexuality, starting with Adam’s acknowledgement of Eve and his first stirrings of feelings for her and ending with the realization of his mortality, even though he has fulfilled his role as the male progenitor of the human race.  The range of emotion is not as startling to me; it was the kinds of emotions that Adam displays that really stood out.  At the beginning of the poem, “To the Garden the World,” Adam’s emotions seem innocent enough – all he feels compelled to do is to walk with Eve.  In “A Woman Waits for Me,” the fourth poem in the sequence, Adam’s emotions have taken a noticeably aggressive and almost violent tone, to the point where it is possible readers could interpret the scene as rape in the name of perpetuating the human race.  By the time we get to “Out of the Rolling Ocean the Crowd,” the seventh poem in the sequence, Adam has become a parent and is back to a more contemplative state, realizing his mortality even though his children will live on.

Another striking aspect of the sequence is how transparent Whitman is with his bodily imagery.  In most of Whitman’s poetry, the sexual overtones that are present can be ignored if the reader refuses to acknowledge the presence of these overtones.  For readers of the “Children of Adam” poems, Adam’s sexuality, along with the sexuality of Eve and the other unnamed woman, is just a half layer below the surface.  It is deep enough that this is simply not a bunch of poems about sex, but close enough to the surface reading of the texts that readers, unless they have personal biases preventing them from fully engaging in the poems, cannot deny that it has a purpose in this collection of writings.  Personally, I found Whitman’s handling of sexual material to be appropriate for what he was trying to accomplish.  I was shocked at first and almost questioned if this was Whitman, especially in comparison to his poetry like “Song of Myself,” which is one of my favorite works by Whitman.

Whitman’s “Children of Adam” series is an interesting change of pace from his more canonical works.  Even though Emerson may have found this work shocking and possibly vulgar, Whitman’s biography states:

Leaves of Grass was not a book that set out to shock the reader so much as to merge with the reader and make him or her more aware of the body each reader inhabited, to convince us that the body and soul were conjoined and inseparable, just as Whitman’s ideas were embodied in words that had physical body in the ink and paper that readers held physically in their hands.  (Whitman Archive)

While the sexual overtones may be off-putting to some readers, I believe that this is a beautiful work that warrants being discussed along with Whitman’s more prominent sequences.

Works Cited

Folsom, Ed and Kenneth M. Price.  “Walt Whitman.”  The Walt Whitman Archive.  Web.

7 August 2013.

Whitman, Walt.  “Children of Adam.”  Leaves of Grass.  TS.  1860.  Web.  The Walt

Whitman Archive.  7 August 2013.


Tools for Finding Scholarly Biographies Online

Scholarly databases are a useful tool for students or academics who are looking to access a wide array of information from the comfort of their home, office, or desk.  With the number of databases available, it can be confusing or even intimidating to figure out where to begin if a user has not utilized these tools before, either through a subscription service, public library, or college or university library.  In looking at three similar databases, it is easy to determine that, despite these databases being similar in nature, that these tools vary greatly.  To examine each database, I attempted to search for the biographies of three prominent Puritans: Anne Hutchinson, John Cotton, and John Winthrop.

Dictionary of Literary Biography

The main page of the Dictionary of Literary Biography looks harmless enough.  There are basic and advanced search options, as well as the option to browse the database by author or to browse volumes of smaller biographical information based on publication or ethnicity.  At first glance, Dictionary of Literary Biography covers a wide range of writers, ethnicities, and backgrounds.  Not all of these writers are strictly American or have published in exclusively one genre.  This database is well-suited for those who are looking for a broad range of writers over a span of time and geography.  James L. Harner, in the Literary Research Guide, writes, “Most volumes are organized around a genre, group, or type of writer within a historical period of a national literature; the majority of the 368 volumes published by October 2012 are devoted to literatures in English” (Harner).

When using the basic search for the three Puritan writers in question, the database did not return any results for Anne Hutchinson, John Cotton, or John Winthrop.  The advanced search displayed the same lack of results, and after browsing the catalogue by author, I discovered that none of these writers were listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography.  In taking random samples of the authors who are listed on the website, the Dictionary of Literary Biography may not be suited for those looking for biographies of early American writers, but instead may better serve those with a more contemporary focus.

American National Biography Online

When arriving at the main page of the American National Biography, the search function can be impressive to those who are familiar with scholarly databases, but very intimidating to those who may not be as experienced with digital scholarly tools.  The “basic” search gives users the option to search by name of their subject in either articles or bibliographies, and also allows options to narrow possible results by dates of birth and/or death, occupation, place of birth, or to include or exclude results with illustrations or additional online resources.

The first search I tried in the database was for Anne Hutchinson, leaving all of the search parameters at their default settings except for sex, which I chose as female.  American National Biography Online returned one result, a 1350-word biography written by Elaine C. Huber in Antinomian Leaders.  The biography itself is helpful because it not only talks about Hutchinson, but links to the biographies of her associates, including John Cotton and John Winthrop.  Both Cotton and Winthrop’s pages displayed extensive biographies as well as portraits of both figures.

Each entry also includes a brief bibliography of scholarly works about that individual.  The formatting of the bibliography is a little confusing because it is all squished into one paragraph, without breaks or traditional formatting, but it is not confusing enough that an average user cannot sort it out.  Overall, the American National Biography Online is an excellent database to use for those who are comfortable with using advanced search features.  For those who may be new to scholarly databases and having to set extensive parameters, this online tool may take some getting used to.  This database does receive praise from scholars, however, as Harner describes this resource as “the country’s standard national biography for the foreseeable future” (Harner).

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has a very user-friendly homepage with the basic search readily available.  If a user were to scroll further down the page, he or she could find other various resources that the Dictionary has to offer, such as information on themes throughout history or about various historical documents, such as the Magna Carta.  In addition to the basic search, there are also tabs to bring up browsing functions such as searching the database, browsing the database, or searching the database by theme.

When attempting a search for Anne Hutchinson, the database returned one biographical result and one thematic result.  The biography, written by Michael P. Winship, is comparable to the biography found at the American National Biography Online, but also gives a brief paragraph about her famous children.  Oxford Dictionary of National Biography also returned one thematic result, titled Imperial Lives in the Oxford DNB.  This feature article discusses a number of British citizens who, for some reason, were considered dissidents in terms of political, religious, or social views.  The feature article is interesting because it not only describes the relationships among some of these historical figures, but also includes portraits of people discussed in the article.  Harner writes of this database, “Besides its superior search capabilities, the online ODNB offers other advantages over the print version: it is updated and corrected three times per year, hyperlinks allow for easy navigation between related articles (and within longer ones) and for connections to other electronic sources that provide additional information on the biography, and images are in color” (Harner).

Out of the three databases, I found the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography to be the most useful of the three.  Not only did the database return a moderately-detailed biography, but also provided search results that extended Hutchinson’s biography and made connections to other historical figures who may be useful when pursuing scholarly work.  For those who are familiar with databases, all three resources provide easy to use interfaces that allow users to search using a variety of parameters.  For those who may not be as familiar with online research resources, it may take a little bit of playing around in order to understand how these tools work, and to figure out how to get the results a user is looking for.

Works Cited

American National Biography.  The Oxford Index, April 2013.  Web.  29 July 2013.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Complete Online.  Gale Databases.  Web.  29 July 2013.

Harner, James L.  “American National Biography Online.”  Literary Research Guide.  5thEd.  E-book.  30 July 2013.

———-.  “Dictionary of Literary Biography.”  Literary Research Guide.  5th ed.  E-book. 30 July 2013.

———-.  “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.”  Literary Research Guide.  5th ed. E-book.  30 July 2013.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  Oxford University Press, 2004-2013.  Web. 29 July 2013.

Selections from Walt Whitman’s “Children of Adam” Poems

Walt Whitman is perhaps one of the most well-known American poets.  Throughout his life, Whitman worked in a variety of clerical and editorial positions that also caused him to produce a great body of work, much of which has been preserved and organized by The Walt Whitman Archive.  One of his groups of poems, known as the “Children of Adam” poems, is an interesting topic of study because of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice that Whitman do major revisions to the collection in order to remove “vulgar” material.  This bibliography looks at the first five poems in the “Children of Adam” collection, as Whitman begins to attempt to chronicle the rise and fall of man through his poetry.

Whitman, Walt.  “A Woman Waits for Me.”  1860.  MS.  The Walt Whitman Archive.  31 July 2013.

The tone of “A Woman Waits for Me” is different from poems preceding it in the “Children of Adam” series.  Previously, the tone of the first three poems was a tender, lovingly persuasive message that was meant to entice women softly and gently.  In “A Woman Waits for Me,” the speaker’s tone turns forceful to the point where the male character in the poem appears to be forcing himself on a woman in the name of perpetuating the human race.

The speaker’s attitudes toward sexual intercourse have also made a change in this poem.  Previously, Whitman’s speaker used more poetic language to describe the act of sex, portraying it as a beautiful part of nature.  In “A Woman Waits for Me,” the speaker gets as explicit as was probably socially acceptable for a poet in the mid-nineteenth century, describing in a forcefully poetic way just how the act of sexual intercourse between the speaker and this woman will aid in the continuation of mankind.  There is to be no shame in this act, however, because the speaker says that engaging in this act will not only produce children who will give birth to children, but also will create the individuals who will be responsible for contributing to the greatness of humanity.

———-.  “I Sing the Body Electric.”  1860.  MS.  The Walt Whitman Archive.  31 July 2013.

“I Sing the Body Electric” is the longest poem in the “Children of Adam” collection.  Divided into nine sections, this poem takes the reader from the speaker’s feelings after the sexual encounter between Adam and Eve through the slave era in the United States.  At the beginning of this poem, the speaker describes what anatomy and feelings make men men and women women, giving special attention to the slight movements, glances, and touches between men and women that may express or conjure desire.

In later sections of the poem, the speaker questions societal views on what makes a male or female a human being in the eyes of society.  The speaker describes helping at slave auctions, watching as men and women of various ages, sizes, shapes, and colors being auctioned off as if they were objects without feeling.  Whitman’s speaker draws on his previous descriptions of men and women and what he knows about those who are being auctioned as slaves – that they are mothers and fathers of sons and daughters – to question whether or not readers at that time should really consider slaves as property because they are different or to think of them as fellow humans because, in many ways, they are the same as the readers of the time.

———-.  “From Pent Up Aching Rivers.”  1860.  MS.  The Walt Whitman Archive.  31 July 2013.

After reading “From Pent Up Aching Rivers,” it is clear as to why Emerson urged Whitman to do large scale revisions to the “Children of Adam” poems before publication.  “From Pent Up Aching Rivers” is Whitman’s rendition of the fall of man and the lust that Adam felt for Eve in Eden.  A significant part of the poem is dedicated to the speaker describing his intense lust for another woman, presumably Adam speaking to Eve despite the lack of names for the man and woman in the poem.

The speaker also seems to take care that this not just a plea for interaction out of lust, but that the speaker truly does love the woman described in the poem.  The speaker talks about how he has waited for this woman, almost too long, and now that she is in sight his feelings for her have heightened.  Later in the poem, he goes on to describe that this is not just about the two of them, that these feelings will also lead to the conception of children and the furthering of the human race.  As cold and scientific as this proposal may sound to the modern reader, Whitman through his speaker makes this a tender moment, describing the aftermath as a moment when both of them have created a bond that neither of them want to break right away.

———-.  “Spontaneous Me.”  1860.  MS.  The Walt Whitman Archive.  31 July 2013.

Upon reading this poem, one of the motifs Whitman wove into this piece is that of frustration.  The speaker, presumably Adam, along with the woman (Eve) have become parents.  Adam appears to be having problems reconciling his physical feelings and need for intimacy with Eve with the responsibilities of parenthood, which he describes as a certain kind of chastity.  He can still remember the moments of intimacy shared between him and Eve, and those memories seem to be weighing on him as a man, which reads as though Adam is a man with unfulfilled needs.

Through Adam’s frustration, however, there is a sense of determination.  Towards the end of the poem, there is a section where Adam describes the natural scene around them as Eve and his daughter play nearby.  After Adam has described the natural part of this scene, he then speaks of his desire to father sons and the oath that he has taken to make sure that the human race is continued.  While Adam appreciates his daughters, there is a greed gnawing at him to produce sons, and this greed is compelling him to try to conceive a son to the point where he is careless in regards to the child’s conception.

———-.  “To the Garden the World.”  1860.  MS.  The Walt Whitman Archive.  31 July 2013.

This brief introduction to the “Children of Adam” collection reads like a call to the speaker’s audience to come and listen to the speaker’s story.  The speaker summons people of all stations in life – men, women, children, fertile and not, to come to an unnamed garden to witness a new beginning of some sort.  This beginning is described as being something excited, as the speaker describes shaking and rumbling, as well as feeling love and beauty as he or she awakes from his or her slumber.

“To the Garden the World” is an interesting introduction in that the poem tries to describe a beginning of civilization, one in which Eve is described as following the speaker, after the beginning of civilization has already taken place.  Through the imagery in this poem, it appears that Whitman wants to encourage some kind of rebirth of humanity, represented by the speaker feeling a new beginning formulating after awaking from sleeping.  The last three lines, however, take a turn away from biblical imagery by describing Eve possibly walking behind the speaker or walking at the speaker’s side.  Regardless of the spatial relationship between Eve and the speaker, the speaker seems content with however the arrangement works and appears willing to go on this journey with Eve.

Mobile Apps to Aid in Scholarly Research

(As mobile devices provide us with an increasing amount of access to the Internet, tablets and mobile applications (apps) can help scholars and students work on their research with more freedom than sitting at a desk or even being tied to a laptop computer.  Traditional databases are still available to mobile device users through various channels, either through subscription services or through library connections.  Some of these apps, however, attempt to pick up where some databases leave off.

In order to create an equalizing element of analysis, I will use each of these apps to attempt to locate an article by Tamara Harvey with the following citation:

Harvey, Tamara.  “Women in Early America: Recharting Hemispheric and Atlantic Desire.”  Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers 28.2 (2011): 159-176.  Project MUSE. Web. 29 July 2013.

These reviews are based upon the Apple iOs versions of apps available for Apple mobile devices (iPhone, iPad 2/3/4, and iPod touch) and are initially free to purchase through the Apple App Store.  Users who have a basic proficiency in using these devices and experience in working with scholarly databases should be able to use these apps.

Article Search (AS)

 Article Search, or AS, is an interesting app that helps scholars and students locate articles found in other databases.  Instead of utilizing Project MUSE or JSTOR, however, Article Search draws from Microsoft Academic and Google Scholar, two web services that search the Internet for books, articles, and other research sources that are deemed to be credible, sound references for scholarly work.  The drawback is that, even though the app is free to download, users must purchase additional “premium library packs” in order to access other databases.

In searching for Tamara Harvey’s article by the author’s name, Article Search’s preliminary result displays the number of results available in Google Scholar versus Microsoft Academic.  Users can then click on the corresponding graphic to show results from that search engine.  For Tamara Harvey, Google Scholar returned about 8,000 results, whereas Article Search reports Microsoft Academic having 106 returns for the same search.  When examining the results from Google Scholar, the particular article by Harvey did not show up until page nine of the search results, while articles from other disciplines, other works by or mentioning Harvey, or works in languages other than English ranked higher in the results.  Article Search, through Google Scholar, led me to the article’s listing in Project MUSE.


Microsoft Academic did not return any results that matched this particular article, but did return four other works by Harvey and an announcement in Legacy for the article in question.  This app would be useful for students or scholars who are trying to look up articles found in other databases, but patience is needed to wade through material from other fields, as only Microsoft Academic has the capacity to filter results by discipline.

Access My Library College Edition (AML)

AML, created by database publisher Gale, looks like a promising app at first.  It claims to give users access to member institutions’ libraries around the world.  Upon launching the app, it prompts the user to select its state (U.S. users,) province (Canadian users,) or the international option.  After selecting the user’s location, the app provides a list of member institutions associated with the user’s selection.

This is where AML fails as an app.  To me, the app sounded promising by being able to access my campus library’s resources on my tablet without turning on the necessary gateways, which drain battery life.  When scrolling through the list of member institutions, the main campus of my university was not listed, and only four out of seven branch campuses were listed, some with spelling errors or errors in their location.  After selecting a branch campus, the app displayed a page with a map showing the library’s location and address, in addition to the option to “update my resources.”  Upon tapping on this option, the app prompts the user to enter an administrative password, which most students do not have access to.


AML could be a really promising tool, if students and faculty, presumably, had the appropriate credentials to use it.  For those who do not have the credentials, AML falls short by leaps and bounds.


 The Questia app allows users to access the Questia Library database via mobile devices, just as users are able to via the Internet.  Unlike Article Search, Questia allows users to access full text versions of books, articles, and other scholarly resources directly in the app without a go between search engine.  An added bonus of Questia is that users can save resources according to projects and create separate folders for individual projects.  For users who subscribe to the Questia Library via the Internet, the app offers additional resources, such as citation builders and advanced highlighting and mark up capacities.

What is useful about the Questia app is that it allows users to narrow their results by field, also referred to within the app as topics, before searching for a topic or article.  This interface allows users to continue narrowing down their area of focus in order to return targeted results, or to continue to a general category.  A search for Harvey’s article showed it as the sixth result after filtering for just journal articles, and then providing a summary of the special issue of Legacy in which it appeared, all relevant publication data, and the option to read the article or add it to a project.  Out of the three apps, Questia returned targeted results the quickest with ample information about this resource, other than just the text of the article.


With tablets and other mobile devices being used more and more in place of desktop computers or laptops, mobile apps are giving users access to information on platforms that are more convenient for on-the-go people.  For students or scholars looking for apps to use when researching or accessing scholarly resources, the options are out there.  It takes some digging to sift through the apps that do not live up to expectations to find the apps that are truly helpful.

Works Cited

Access My Library College Edition.  Gale Databases.  Mobile iOs Application.  29 July 2013.

Article Search.  Mobile iOs Application.  28 July 2013.

Questia.  Questia Libraries.  Mobile iOs Application.  30 July 2013.

A Gender Studies Approach to the Life and Trial of Anne Hutchinson

This bibliography focuses on a small sampling of the critical works analyzing the trial of Anne Hutchinson in 1637.  Specifically, these works will look at the Hutchinson trial and Antinomian literature with a gender studies and feminist slant, looking at how gender played a role in these historical events.

Barker-Benfield, Ben.  “Anne Hutchinson and the Puritan Attitude toward Women.” Feminist Studies 1.2 (1972): 65-96.  JSTOR.  Web.  21 July 2013.

Barker-Benfield takes an interesting approach to looking at the relationships among men, women, and God in this article.  This writer suggests that, despite the Puritan opposition to hierarchies within the established church, gendered attitudes toward men and women established unofficial tiers of power by establishing that one gender is more apt than another to receive divine wisdom from God.  This was because one gender held almost all of the positions of leadership within a community – church leaders, teachers, politicians, etc. – while the other gender was less apt to receive the same divine wisdom from God.  Because of the other gender’s incapacity to have a direct relationship with God, Barker-Benfield argues that this lead them to become rebels and allow this rebelliousness to be reproduced within families and break down the family unit.

This article also looks at the similarities between Hutchinson’s story and the story of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter.  Barker-Benfield, in describing accounts of the two women’s lives, looks at how Hawthorne takes Hutchinson’s life story and, through Hester Prynne, creates a female character that, along with her religious leader Arthur Dimmesdale, take to task the Puritanical attitudes regarding gender and power as perceived by Hawthorne.

Kaufmann, Michael W. “Post-secular Puritans: Recent Retrials of Anne Hutchinson.” Early American Literature 45.1 (2010): 31-59. Project MUSE. Web. 23 July 2013.

Kaufmann’s article takes a look at more recent developments in the study of Hutchinson’s life and works that have been published since the 1970s and 1980s.  Additionally, Kaufmann argues that there are certain cultural parameters, such as religion, that should be worked back into Hutchinson scholarship, especially in relation to the prevailing dichotomies that have been previously studied in relation to this particular Puritan figure and within Puritan studies in general.  This is to encourage Puritan scholarship to follow trends in the field of literary studies to incorporate religious considerations back into academic work.  After all, writes Kaufmann, the Puritans were both a religious and cultural group, so this is nothing more than a logical move to make.

Kaufmann also argues that Puritan studies should follow prevailing scholarly trends and make a return to incorporating religion in academic study.  Interestingly, Kaufmann describes the religious literary studies, placed among several other sub-disciplines within the cultural studies field, is an interesting gray zone for Puritan scholars because of the influence religion had on this particular group of people, their literature, and the discourses in which they engage.

Scheick, William J.  “Literature to 1800.”  American Literary Scholarship (2004): 223-240.  Project MUSE.  Web.  23 July 2013.

This literature review, which encompasses a wide variety of early American writers and historical figures, has a pretty significant portion devoted not only to Puritan women, but particularly to Hutchinson.  Many of the scholarly texts mentioned look at Hutchinson and the works regarding her trial from a variety of approaches, but also take others within her community, such as John Cotton, to task on their remarks during Hutchinson’s trial, and whether or not these figures surrounding Hutchinson really understood the ramifications of their words and arguments.

Scheick’s literature review gives a compact scope of the scholarship there is regarding Puritan and colonial women while still giving due justice to many different fields within literary studies.  His analysis of each source is rather brief, but also tries to give the reader an idea of what distinguishes each of the pieces in question from other scholarship in the field without taking too much space.  This review also discusses literature of first encounters, women of the Southern colonies, and other important figures in pre-1800 American literature.  The works Scheick describes may be useful for scholars or students looking to make connections across historical time periods or geographic locations and need suggestions as to what literature is available on a range of early American writers.

Toulouse, Teresa. “Where Do We Go from Here?: Early American Women and the End(s) of Feminist Critique.” Early American Literature 44.1 (2009): 195-213.Project MUSE. Web. 23 Jul. 2013.

Toulouse’s article provides an extensive review of past literature created focusing on feminism and early American and early modern literature.  The rationale behind this argument was an article in The New York Times discussing a shift in the attitudes of academics in the past couple of decades, from passionate politicized work to scholarship that is more focused on data and statistics.  Because of this, Toulouse argues, there is a shift away from feminism as a field of literary study and gravitating toward empirically-driven forms of study.

Toulouse also looks at male representations of women and women writers in these various forms of early literature.  In a somewhat complicated way, Toulouse concludes that it is possible for both theoretically-based feminist scholars can also work in conjunction with the new generation of literature academics to provide a new insight into how women and literacy function both within these early texts and how gender relations may have impacted the literacy of women of the time.  Toulouse argues that, by combining both the traditional, theory-based literary research with this surge in scholar working with empirical data, we can better study women of early American literature and better understand how literacy, women, and society all interacted.

Westerkamp, Marilyn J.  “Anne Hutchinson, Sectarian Mysticism, and the Puritan Order.”  Church History 59.4 (1990): 482-496.  JSTOR.  Web.  21 July 2013.

Westerkamp’s article takes a look at various interpretations of Anne Hutchinson’s fame in the scholarly community, which she describes as being close to that of a celebrity.  According to Westerkamp, Hutchinson enjoyed a certain fame during her life because both men and women liked her regardless of her alleged wrongdoings in the eyes of the church.  This article describes the current scholarship portraying Hutchinson as being anywhere from a threat to political stability to a social deviant to a rebel.  All of these roles and portrayals, Westerkamp argues, undermined the prevailing social order.

Westerkamp’s take on the various biographies and pieces of scholarship surrounding Hutchinson is interesting to consider in light of other scholarship representing her as being one type or another.  The author’s analysis of Hutchinson’s responses to Winthrop and others during her trial give a different perspective on how the Puritans viewed the worth of the individual, something Westerkamp also briefly looks at in her argument.  From a feminist perspective, Westerkamp cites Withington and Schwartz’s research regarding the political nature of the trial, and whether or not Hutchinson’s trial was actually held to decide her innocence or to display who within the community was the source of political, social, and religious power.

Withington, Ann Fairfax and Jack Schwartz.  “The Political Trial of Anne Hutchinson.”The New England Quarterly 51.2 (1978): 226-240.  JSTOR.  Web.  21 July 2013.

Withington and Schwartz’s article serves two purposes.  First, this article engages the debate as to whether or not Hutchinson was actually an Antinomian.  These writers argue that we cannot ascertain what Hutchinson’s religious and political persuasion was during this crisis because she never wrote her opinions down.  Additionally, Withington and Schwartz write that some historians who have tried to label Hutchinson as belonging to one side of the crisis or another are doing so incorrectly as they are interpreting the Antinomian period using cultural values that did not exist at the time of Hutchinson’s trial.

The other function of this article is looking at Hutchinson’s testimony at her trial in terms of what the authors call “primitive feminism.”  Withington and Schwartz, in looking at various assessments of Hutchinson’s actions throughout her trial, argue that scholars and readers cannot simply look at Hutchinson’s testimony as an early form of feminism because it defied the male-established status quo.  Instead, Withington and Schwartz argue, in a downplayed but important part of this piece, that we must not simply jump to a feminist justification in this case, but also consider other reasons for Hutchinson’s testimony.

Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Crisis

The documents surrounding the trial of Anne Hutchinson give us interesting insight into what the Puritans believed was the role of women in religion.  Hutchinson, who moved to Boston to remain a part of Mather’s transplanted congregation, was on trial for essentially disrupting the social order.  These writings reinforce or further the exclusion of women from participating in organized religion beyond being a casual participant, and instead continue to give religious authority exclusively to male believers.

Anne Hutchinson was accustomed to meeting with others prior to settling in Boston.  “Once settled in her new Boston…she resumed a practice she had begun in England, of paying calls on women in childbed or other distress, as a kind of semiprofessional advisor” (Heimert and Delbanco 154).  This act of domesticity, helping other women in manners concerning the home, is an act in which women have been engaging for centuries.  Ben Barker-Benfield writes, “The revolution in which Hampden, Lilburne, Winstanley – and Winthrop – were engaged on behalf of the new man (species generic) also erected or renewed a barrier on behalf of the new man (sex-specific), and against the emergence of the new woman” (66).  Barker-Benfield’s statement is interesting in light of the many reasons why the Puritans made the journey to what is now America.  In the process of creating this “new man” that Barker-Benfield speaks of, Puritan attitudes redefine how religion can function in the domestic sphere.  Women are expected to actively participate in the church community, but men began to view themselves as being of a mediating caste.  Men of this caliber saw Hutchinson and women like her as a threat to their roles within the household, undermining their ability to “make good for women what they claimed for themselves” (Barker-Benfield 67).

We see this again in John Cotton’s “A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace,” in which he writes, “At length the Lord comes in some ordinance of his, and beareth witness freely of love bestowed upon us; and such a testimony will marvelously settle and establish any soul in the world” (Heimert and Delbanco 150).  Governor Winthrop, in a later piece, refutes this by saying that Anne Hutchinson’s place, having born witness and now helping others to share that, is not her place in the greater community:

The case is altered and will not stand with us now, but I see a marvelous  providence of God to bring things to this pass that they are…The ground work of her revelations is the immediate revelation of the spirit and not by the ministry of the word.  And that is the means by which she hath very much abused the country that they shall look for revelations… (Heimert and Delbanco 161)

On one hand, it is believed that God will make a place for those who share their testimony, but Winthrop and the court were of the opinion that this was not a place for Anne Hutchinson.

In “The Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson at the court at Newtown.”  Winthrop says that Hutchinson has been “condemned by the general assembly as a thing not tolerable not comely in the sight of God or fitting for your sex, and notwithstanding that was cried down you have continued the same” (Heimert and Delbanco 156).  Since men saw themselves as the mediators between God and congregation, Hutchinson has undermined the established social order simply by having these meetings at her home.  Additionally, this upsets the domestic sphere of the Hutchinson household; instead of gender roles being clearly defined, the lines between genders have been blurred as a result of Hutchinson professing the word of God.  Hutchinson has stepped outside her role as a Puritan woman, and therefore, is brought to trial and eventually expelled from her church as a result, even though in her preaching she meant to uphold a certain kind of religious discourse in which her male counterparts engaged.  This is interesting in light of one of the statements Winthrop makes in his “A Defense of an Order of Court Made in the Year 1637”:  “The persons so incorporating have a public and relative interest in each other…and in all the means of their welfare so as none other can claim privilege with them but by free consent” (Heimert and Delbanco 165).  Wasn’t Hutchinson’s theological practice out of concern for others, just as what Winthrop describes?

The writings concerning Anne Hutchinson’s trial give us a glimpse into the role of gender and the notion of domestic roles in Puritan settlements in America during the 1600s.  Religious gender roles dictated that women were not suitable for being known as a mediator between God and His followers.  “Your conscience you must keep,” wrote Winthrop, “or it must be kept for you” (Heimert and Delbanco 157).  Winthrop’s simple statement shows us that, in terms of gender in the Puritan church, women did not have the mental abilities to handle the responsibility of receiving and professing God’s word, something that Anne Hutchinson unknowingly went to great lengths to try to prove.

Works Cited

Barker-Benfield, Ben.  “Anne Hutchinson and the Puritan Attitude toward Women.”  Feminist Studies 1.2 (1972): 65-96.  Web.  JSTOR.  21 July 2013.

Cotton, John.  “A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace.”  The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology.  Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco, Eds.  Boston: Harvard University Press, 1985.  Print.

Heimert, Alan and Andrew Delbanco, Eds.  “Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643).”  The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology.  Boston: Harvard University Press, 1985.  Print.

———–.  “The Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson at the court at Newtown.”  The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology.  Boston: Harvard University Press, 1985.  Print.

Winthrop, John.  “A Defense of an Order of Court Made in the Year 1637.”  The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology.  Alan Heimert and Andrew Delbanco, Eds.  Boston: Harvard University Press, 1985.  Print.