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March 14, 2022

Anne Hutchinson

The name most commonly associated with the founding of America’s oldest university is John Harvard. But credit also belongs to Anne Hutchinson, a courageous and controversial figure who has been called “Harvard’s midwife.”

Hutchinson emigrated in 1634 to Massachusetts Bay Colony, where she raised many children, worked as a midwife, and held discussions in her home on sermons and the Bible. She was a compelling teacher, and soon there were 60 women and men gathering at her house twice a week.

Local officials and clergy grew concerned that Hutchinson was teaching an unorthodox theology. Hutchinson refused to back down, and was eventually brought to court. She lost her case, was exiled, and went with her family and followers to Rhode Island.

Harvard College was established at the height of the Hutchinson controversy. The men who voted Harvard into existence had been troubled by the threat Hutchinson and others posed to traditional authority. They wanted to ensure that future ministers had a place to be trained in their way of interpreting the Bible.
Although it enrolled many lay students who studied classical subjects, Harvard’s main purpose at first was to educate preachers. Today, Harvard has come to be known as one of the world’s premier academic institutions.

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