Freedom of Religion: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy

Freedom of Religion: Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy
Louisa Adams: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: One week

Required Documents
Vocabulary Worksheet
Research Project Directions


The United First Parish Church of Quincy, Massachusetts is one of the oldest churches in the Unites States. Its origin predates 1639 when its establishment made it possible for the Town of Braintree to incorporate in 1640. This church was originally founded by Puritan Congregationalists but became Unitarian around the year 1750.  Both President John Adams and his Son President John Quincy Adams and their wives Abigail and Louisa Adams were lifelong members of this congregation. In fact they are all buried in a crypt within the church. Other prominent members of this congregation were John Hancock president of the Second Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as John Wheelwright and his sister-in-law Anne Hutchinson both of who were banished 1637 because of having been pronounced guilty of sedition and contempt in a dispute known as the Antinomian Controversy.         Most Americans look back historically at the Puritans as a group that left England to came to America for religious freedom, when in fact this group was perhaps even more oppressive to religious dissenters than the Church of England had ever been to them. Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian Controversy is an example of how this disagreement in religious philosophy within the Puritan community led to a trial, conviction, excommunication, and banishment from Massachusetts of Hutchinson. Her family and followers left and contributed to the establishment of the colony of Rhode Island. The irony here is that a congregation that produced such champions of freedom as John Adams and John Hancock that both played a great role in creating government that would separate church and state, excommunicated and banished a woman because her religious views were different from those that ruled.


         1)      The students will define accurately terms having to do with Puritan beliefs in order to have a better understanding of the experience of Anne Hutchinson.

         2)      The students will summarize the key events that led to the trial and banishment from Massachusetts of Anne Hutchinson.

         3)      The students will Draw inferences, conclusions, or generalizations about text and support them with textual evidence and prior knowledge.

Materials Required:

Computer and internet access; Microsoft Word or PowerPoint or any comparable software;  Anne Hutchinson Vocabulary Work Sheet; Directions for the research Project and scoring rubric


1)      The teacher will begin the class by quoting some statistics. 1) In 2011 68% of high school graduates enrolled in college.  2) Of the students who enroll in college only 55% graduate. So roughly 35% of high school graduates get college degrees. The teacher will then ask the class if they desire to attend college. Follow up this question by asking the students what type of things they could do to ensure they are successful in graduating both high school and college. Have the students make a list of strategies they could use or things they could do to make themselves more likely of being successful. Have the students share their strategies for being academically successful. When all ideas have been shared the teacher will tell the students that the ideas they shared were meaningless because only certain people would be selected to graduate from college and the quality and amount of work they did didn’t matter. The government would determine who graduated from college and who didn’t and that no matter how hard they tried their efforts would have no effect on their success. Let the students share their ideas about your statement. When the discussion is over be sure to explain that what you said was not true and that effort does matter, but that you started this discussion to have the students experience similar feelings to those of the Puritans who believed in predestination.

2)      Assign the Anne Hutchinson Vocabulary Work Sheet. The majority of these terms can be defined by reading the “Background” section of the website listed as #1 in the “Linkable Resources Section of this lesson plan. The rest can be found at The teacher may also choose to give the students the definitions as notes and discuss each. These terms provide background information necessary to understand the story of Anne Hutchinson.

3)      The students will then read brief biographies of Anne Hutchinson from the websites listed as numbers 2 & 3 in the “Linkable Resources” Section of this lesson plan.

1)      The final assignment will be for the students to create a research project in the form of a paper or a presentation, in which they will summarize the key events that led to the

Extending the Lesson:

Having the students delve deeper into the Puritan beliefs as they were applied in the Massachusetts Bay Colony could extend this lesson. Some examples of this could be an examination of the Blue Laws, or investigation into the Salem Witch Trials.

Sources & Resources:


First United Parish Church

The Antinomian Controversy

Anne Hutchionson: A Brief Biography

Anne Hutchinson on Wikipedia

More on Anne Hutchinson

The Trial of Anne Hutchinson

Anne Hutchinson on Sparticus

Anne Hutchinson at Harvard


Credits: Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, developed this lesson.