History 246 Reading Guide

English Women in New England:  Traditional ideas and new circumstances

  • Jane Kamensky, Ch. 3:  “The Misgovernment of Woman’s Tongue,” in Kamensky, Governing the Tongue:  The Politics of Speech in Early New England (1997), 71-98.  (e-reserve)
  • Document:  Anne Bradstreet, "Prologue," from The Tenth Muse Lately sprung up in America, Or Severall Poems, compiled with great variety of Wit and Learning, full of delight ... By a Gentlewoman in those parts (London, 1650), reprinted by Poetry Foundation

Further reading:

  • Nancy F. Cott, ed., “The Examination of Mrs. Ann Hutchinson at the Court of Newtown” (1637); “The Church Trial of Mistress Ann Hibbens” (1640), Root of Bitterness: Documents in the Social History of American Women (1986), 34-58.  
  • C. Dallett Hemphill, “Women in Court: Sex-Role Differentiation in Salem, Massachusetts, 1636-1683,” William and Mary Quarterly 39 (1982), 164-175. JSTOR
  • Lyle Koehler, “The Case of the American Jezebels:  Ann Hutchinson and Female Agitation,” William and Mary Quarterly 31 (1974), 55-78.  JSTOR
  • Mary Maples Dunn, “Saints and Sisters:  Congregational and Quaker Women in the Early Colonial Period,” American Quarterly 30.5 (1978), 582-601.  JSTOR
  • Cornelia Hughes Dayton, “Taking the Trade:  Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village,” William and Mary Quarterly 48 (1991), 19-49.  JSTOR

As Norton did, Kamensky examines women’s “voices”—although she examines speech, rather than slander—and the public fear of the potential power of women’s voices, when these are “misgoverned.”

  • How did lay silence, and especially female silence, become a cornerstone of social order in Massachusetts? Why?
  • Using the evidence from Kamensky's account, reconstruct Anne Hutchinson's and Ann Hibben's experiences in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. What did they "do"? How did each of the women justify their actions? How did the Puritan authorities interpret and present their behaviors? Why the difference?
  • Why were the "Antinomians" so threatening to the Puritan ministry? How did Anne Hutchinson exacerbate that threat? Why was the Antinomian emphasis on faith versus works particularly appealing to women?
  • Why was Ann Hibbens's voice so troubling to the Puritans (especially in the wake of Hutchinson's trial)? Why was Hibbens brought before the church rather than the court?
  • What do the charges against Anne Hutchinson and Ann Hibbens suggest about the fragility of the social order in Puritan New England?

Further reading questions:
Hemphill’s examples of work sharing and “crossing over” offer important evidence of the mechanics and the experience of Puritan marriages.

  • Does the sharing of work necessarily indicate “low sex-role polarity” and “non-differentiation”?
  • In what ways was women’s “conversance” with economic affairs in Salem similar to the limited economic slander power of women in the Chesapeake? Did conversance equate with having any degree of economic power?
  • Why did sex roles begin to diverge between 1670 and 1680?