Saturday, 24 July 2010

Anne Hutchinson the fabulous

Anne Hutchinson: she was born in Alford, Lincolnshire (U.K.) in 1591, and died in Pelham Bay, New York in 1643.   Anne’s father, Francis Marbury, was a Church of England clergyman.  He was one for whom the reformation of the C of E seemed incomplete, and he longed for yet more purification of the Church. He was not afraid to challenge authority, and for his pains was imprisoned for two years, for questioning the judgement of his superiors.
Marbury was able to reconcile himself with an incompletely reformed Church, and became the Rector in Alford.  But he was contemptuous of some of the Elizabethan Bishops and for that crime he was forbidden to preach, and subjected to house arrest. 
He made sure that Anne and her sisters were well educated, (by him, and at home, for there were no schools for girls).He responded positively at Anne’s inquisitive mind.
Marbury’s suspension having been lifted, he was appointed to a parish in London.  Anne was fourteen years old when she (and her family) left rural Lincolnshire for the many sights and sounds of London. Shakespeare was producing his plays at the Globe Theatre.  
 The “Gunpowder Plot” was discovered just one week after the family arrived in London.
Anne was wooed by a man she had known in Alford:-  they had practically grown up together.  His name was Will Hutchinson.  He is described in every account as a fabulously good man.  He and Anne wed each other in 1612 when Anne was 21 and Will was 26.  They returned to Alford.
Anne began to teach the bible to local women, with Will's full support.  But by 1634 the Hutchinsons were ready to emigrate to America. The religious climate in England had become increasingly hostile to their point of view, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony looked to be a more hospitable place.
In the Massachusetts Bay Colony the Church of England was dominated by those whom others would call “Puritans”.  There was no freedom of religion in that colony,. Rather there was the  freedom for these colonists to practice their Church of England faith in their “purified way”.
The Hutchinson family sailed for Massachusetts in 1634.  After a ten week voyage they landed in Boston.  On board ship Anne had gathered women to teach them from Holy Scripture, just as she had done in Alford.
They prospered economically in Boston.  Their close neighbour was oft-times Governor John Winthrop.  They attended the Boston Church where their friend from Alford days, The Revd. John Cotton, who was the principal teacher
Anne continued to teach women.  She would lead them in reviewing the Sunday sermon. She could be critical of the Sunday sermon. Some men, who had heard about her excellent teaching, would come to her home to be taught by her.
Herein lay the rub.  Whilst the Church leaders might turn a blind eye to a woman who taught women, they would not countenance a woman teaching men.  Nor could they ignore her criticisms of the Ministers: she’d asserted that only two of them were true Christians. She also taught that the Holy Spirit within a believer could bring that person to truths  (other than those taught by the educated ministers).
The powers that be concluded that she was disturbing the settled order of things. They feared that she would bring disorder to the Colony.  So they placed her on trial.
Anne had two trials, one by the Great and General Court, one by the Church.  The first trial ordered that she be banished from the colony; the second ruled that she be excommunicated from the Church
Anne Hutchinson held her own in both trials.
It is more than clear that she “held her own” in those  trials.
There were no lawyers or jury. There was not even a codified law by which she was being tried. The heart of the case against her was expressed by the Revd. Thomas Shepard “.... she is of a most dangerous spirit, and likely with her fluid tongue and forwardness in expression to seduce many away...”
We’d have known little about Anne (women were merely incidental in the writings of the early colonists) save for the fact that some of her civil trial was recorded verbatim.  
In that trial  there were no lawyers or jury. There was not even a codified law by which she was being tried. It was Anne against the some 40 judges; or rather the forty judges against Anne.   
The transcript makes it more than clear that she “held her own” in the first trial.  But the verdict was more or less a foregone conclusion, even more so when Anne’s friends and mentor of many years, the Revd. John Cotton testified against her.
Anne and her beloved and faithful Will, with some of their children moved to Rhode Island in 1638. Will died in 1641.  Tired of religious strife Anne then moved to the semi-wilderness of what is now Pelham Bay in New York.  She and all but one of the children were murdered by an Indian raiding party.  One eight year old daughter hid in the house and was adopted by the Indians.  Later she was ransomed back (much against her will!). It is through this daughter that we know of the events of Anne’s last day.
It would be a while before Church and State were disentangled in Massachusetts; a longer while before women were “allowed” public freedom of thought and expression; and even longer before women were ordained and permitted to be ministers.  Anne Hutchinson “saw” in the 17th century what the wider community could not see or believe for another two centuries.  She paid dearly for her vision and wisdom, and for her refusal to be silenced.
(See American Jezebel” by Eve La Plante, Harper San Francisco 2004)

Friday, 23 July 2010

An hiatus

My good friend David Foster (the realtor who worked with me to purchase a home in Sarasota in 2006) came for dinner tonight.

He arrived a bit early, and stayed later than I had planned.  That was fine -  I enjoy his company!  But I did not get to complete what will be a longish blog about a fabulous woman - Anne Hutchinson.

I went entirely off diet and cooked pork ribs with baked beans for dinner.  It was good "comfort food" on this overcast and rainy day.

You'll get my take on Anne Hutchinson tomorrow.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Dorothy the disrespected

Diana Mitford wrote, when she compared her lot to the other women incarcerated at Holloway. "It was still lovely to wake up in the morning and feel that one was the lovely one,"

(I meant to include that comment in yesterday’s blog. It tells us something about the vacuous thinking of many members of the British aristocracy)


“I never said most of the things I said”. These are the words of the famed American baseball player and manager “Yogi” Berra.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) could have said the same. She is mostly remembered for her wit, and for her cutting comments, but not all of the ones which are quoted are from her voice!

Here are a few of the genuine "Dorothy Parker" quotations:

“Brevity is the soul of lingerie”. 

“I’ve never been a millionaire but I just know that I’d be darling at it”. 

“If all the girls at the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised”.

“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B” (re Katherine Hepburn).

But Dorothy Parker was much more than a wit. She was a brilliant, yet tragic woman.

Born Dorothy Rothschild (of a Jewish father and a Scottish mother), she married Edwin Parker in 1917. He was a member of a famed Hartford CT Congregationalist family. She first became aware of anti-Semitism when Edwin Parker’s grandfather prayed that she would be delivered from her errors.

It was an ill fated marriage, and they divorced in 1928. Dorothy married again in 1934. Her husband was Alan Campbell – an aspiring actor and screen-writer. They divorced in 1947, and then re-married in 1950.

Campbell was almost certainly a homosexual. But he was devoted to Dorothy, and was a rock of stability in her life which was slowly being eviscerated by her alcoholism. In the waning years of their first marriage she treated him abominably in an alcohol soaked part of her life.

Much more than being a wit, Dorothy Parker was also a fabulous (when sober) poet, short story writer, magazine reviewer, and screen play writer.

She was also passionate in the cause of human rights and liberty.

  She worked against the tyranny of the Spanish Fascist (Franco) regime.

She organised a union for screenplay writers.

She bequeathed her estate to the Martin Luther King Foundation.

Most commendably she never betrayed a single friend in the McCarthy era “un-American activities/Red scare” days.

All this I write because it bothers me, (i.e. it makes me f-cking mad), that women such as Dorothy Parker are reduced by our history to ciphers. Thus we are led to believe that Dorothy Parker was only and simply a humourist. 

She was much more than that. She was a passionate and courageous worker for social justice.

One of her recorded quotations, funny as it is, holds deep truth. She said “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Diana the Dreadful

Most Britons of my age and up are aware of the (in)famous Mitford sisters. 
Many Americans of my age and up are aware of but one of them Jessica, who wrote the book entitled “The American Way of Death”.
There were six Mitford sisters: Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah; and one brother, Thomas. 
Their mother, Sidney (yes that was her first name) Freeman-Mitford was a proto-fascist, and an early admirer of Ad-lph Hitler. 
Their father David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale was a lifelong Conservative, but never a fascist. Mother and father separated and lived separate lives because of their irreconcilable political differences.
Thomas Mitford was a fascist sympathiser, and a lover of German culture.  He served in the U.K. Army during WWII, but requested that he be assigned to the far-East as he could not bear to think that he would have to shoot at Germans.  Tom was killed in military action in Burma.
Unity was more than a fascist sympathiser, she was a full blown N-zi.  She schemed and planned her activities in Germany so that she could see H-tler.  Not only did she see him, but he saw her, and became fascinated with her.
 When Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, Unity was so distraught that she tried to kill herself with a pistol. Her aim was bad and she did not die, but became brain damaged.  H-tler visited her soon after the suicide attempt and asked if she would prefer to stay in Germany or move back to England.  She whispered “England”, so A. H-tler arranged for her to be moved to Switzerland.  From there she returned to England.  Later she was confirmed in the C of E and became a bit of a religious fanatic.
My recent reading has been about the third Mitford daughter Diana  (1910 – 2003) , in a book written by Anne De Courcy which is entitled “Diana Mosley: Mitford Beauty, British Fascist, H-tler’s Angel”.
Diana was the beauty of her age.  In 1929 she married Bryan Guinness (of the famous Guinness Stout family).
 A bit later Diana became obsessed with the British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley; so much so that she divorced Bryan in 1933. (Mosley was the ghastly leader of the British Fascist Movement, with its “Hitlerian” sympathies.
At first she was Mosley’s lover (he was a notorious womaniser), but in 1936 she became his wife.  They were married in Germany in a private ceremony at the home of Joseph G-ebels.  A. H-tler was one of the official witnesses of that marriage.
Thus Diana became Lady Mosley. She ever hereafter insisted that she should be addressed as “Lady Diana Mosley” .
Diana and Sir Oswald Mosley were unrepentant Na-is.
After the 1939 declaration of war against Germany by the U.K;  N-zi sympathisers such as Sir Oswald Mosley and Lady Diana were imprisoned without charge. 
(“Habeas corpus” had been suspended by the Coalition’s Home Secretary, Herbert Morrison).
But by 1943 British Premier Sir Winston Churchill, (convinced as he was that the Allies would “win”), strove to mitigate the punishment of Diana and Oswald Mosley.
Churchill’s pleas were effective.  Thus it was that the Oswald and Diane Mosley were released from their gaols in 1943, and thenceforth were allowed to live under house arrest.
At the end of WW II, Diana Mitford Mosley and her husband Oswald Mosley moved to France, and lived near Paris. 
There they died.
Sadly neither of them was ever willing or able to renounce a fascistic view.
 My reading of Diana Mitford Mosley’s bio leads me to say that:  

1.      The rich try to get away with any and every law which denigrates the poor.
2.      I reject fascism;
3.      I resist any suspension of habeas corpus;
4.      I  hate any Soviet style management of national resources ;
5.      I wish that Diana Mosley had had better tutors:  She was a brilliant woman who would have known better, had she been better educated.
6.      Read the book entitled “Diana Mosley:  Mitford beauty, British fascist, H-tler’s angel”, written by Anne De Courcy.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Three women: Mosley, Parker, Hutchinson.

My recent reading has taken me to biographies of women whose names I knew, but of whose lives I knew little. 

They are Diana Mitford Mosley (2003); Dorothy Parker (1967); and Anne Hutchinson (1643).

The dates in parentheses indicate the year of death. 

As it happens those dates also indicate the way in which I think of these women - in reverse order. Thus it is that I have little respect for Diana Mitford Mosley, more respect for Dorothy Parker, and enormous respect for Anne Hutchinson.

I believe that these three women “stood against the crowd”, for good or for ill. 

At a time in history when women are once again being subjugated by the religions of terror (i.e. Fundamentalist Islam and Fundamentalist Christianity – [there is not much between them]) I believe that it is vitally important that we should learn from those women who have made a difference.

I will write more about Lady Mosley, Dorothy Parker, and Mistress Hutchinson in the coming days.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Remarkable young men ( 2)

I wrote yesterday about Mike Cachat, a parishioner in Pittsfield, who is about to be deployed to Afghanistan. He was more or less a contemporary with another Pittsfielder, about whom I now write.  His name is C. Derrick Jones.

I met C. Derrick Jones in 1984 when I moved to Pittsfield to be the Rector at St. Stephen’s Parish in that City.  His Dad and Mom (Chauncey Jones and Grace Sawyer Jones) were active members of the parish.  Derrick was then aged 14.  He was a likeable, but somewhat shy, or reserved young man. Four years he  went off to the University of Vermont, and spent his summers working with maladjusted young men in the Berkshires.  It was then that I began to admire him.

Mom and Dad eventually divorced, (these things happen).   Grace S. Jones became my Junior Warden at St. Stephen’s. She went on to have an illustrious career in higher education, and is now the President of the Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, CT.  She and I had dinner together last March when I was in Connecticut.  I adore her.
I was privileged to officiate at the marriage of Derrick’s older sister Libby Jones to Sam Gillen, and in due course to baptise their children, “Gigi” and Theo.
Theo’s baptism was in August 2006 on Cape Cod.  C. Derrick was there together with his fabulous partner Nehara Kalev.  (They are now married).
It had been many years since I’d seen Derrick, and I had never before met Nehara.  We “re-bonded” immediately.  We giggled a lot since Derrick and Nehara had been the featured artists on T.V. evangelist Robert Schuler’s “Hour of Power” show. 
Derrick and I fantasised about follow up shows.
We thought about “Hour of glower” (for two people who hated each other),
Or “Hour of Flour” (a baking show),
or “Hour of Dour”   (for Danes, Scots and Russians).
Then there was “Hour of Shower” for body purity nuts.
More importantly, Derrick and Nehara (now married) told me about their career in improv dance/ theatre.  It is so awesome. 
Please read about it at
Such are the amazing blessings of my life as a Pastor that I can rejoice in Mike Cachat, (U.S. Army), and in Derrick Jones (Performer).  Both guys inspire me.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Remarkable young men

As is the case with most pastors, I have met some remarkable people in various parishes.  Today I have been thinking of two of them, both from St. Stephen's, Pittsfield. (They happen to be men -  but there are also so very many women who are in my pantheon of praise)

There is Michael Cachat.  There were so  many things which were "against" Michael in his early days, but thanks to a fabulous mother, a good step-father, and his own integrity  (forged in the "school of hard knocks"), Michael Cachat is a man whom I admire greatly.

There was a story about him in the Berkshire Eagle newspaper today.  I hope that you will be able to recover it at

 If this link does not work go to  and search for the story entitled "Friends say farewell, wish safe return for National Guard sergeant

I am so scared for Mike and his family. He will soon depart for this war.

I think that the war is both endless and stupid.  I fault Bush for starting it, and Obama for continuing it. I believe that it is a war which cannot be won.

But Mike Cachat does not have the luxury of thinking as I do.  For he is a man under orders. He will obey those orders even as they take him to a place of danger and death.

So I will pray  for him every day. I will try to stay in  touch with him.  I am scared that he will die.

If you pray, please join in my daily prayers for Mike (and his family).

I will write tomorrow about another remarkable Pittsfield young man. His life has taken him in a very different  (but equally admirable)  way than that of Mike Cachat.