Hundreds of years ago, Anne Hutchinson was persecuted for speaking her mind in the fledgling Massachusetts Bay Colony. On Wednesday, a rambunctious 5-year-old descendant of Hutchinson ran around the State House lawn in a pink dress, with a world of opportunities in front of her.
Lillian Grace Hutchinson Boone Marks was one of several descendants of Anne Hutchinson — a Puritan religious leader widely regarded as a symbol of feminism, freedom of speech, and thought — who gathered in front of her statue Wednesday to celebrate the activist’s 425th birthday.
“Learning about your past can really inform you about your future and where we are now,” said Lilly’s mother, Shannon. “I hope what [Lilly] learns about Anne is that she’s a woman that spoke her mind.”
About 60 people attended the celebration, part of a five-day series of events spearhead by the Anne Marbury Hutchinson Foundation to celebrate Hutchinson’s lasting legacy. The tour, which began in Boston, will continue with events along the Hutchinson Trail in Rhode Island and New York.
As people spoke of the lasting impression her great ancestor made, 5-year-old Lilly placed a flower in her hair and nestled in her mother’s lap.
“She really was an extraordinary figure,” former governor Michael S. Dukakis told the crowd. “Men totally dominated civil society at that time, and women were totally disenfranchised.”
Hutchinson came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from England with her husband, William, in the 1600s, according to the foundation. Things were going well for her in the new world until she began to critique the sermons of the male ministers in Massachusetts. She was charged with sedition, declared a heretic, banished from the colony, and was later killed with most of her family in an Indian raid in 1643.
In 1987, Dukakis symbolically pardoned Hutchinson, revoking her banishment from Massachusetts and clearing her name.
Eric Nielsen, the president of the Anne Hutchinson Foundation, said he hopes this event will help spur a conversation around women’s rights.
“I’m big on the old adage, those who forget history are bound to repeat it,” Nielsen said in an interview. “Women should have a chance to put their ideas in and feel as though they will be recognized and valued just like a man would.”
Devin Marks, a cofounder and trustee of the foundation, hopes the public celebration of Hutchinson will help influence female role models for people like his daughter, Lilly.
“Role models from our past that are women of character, women of courage, women of strengths — even when they’re wrong,” Marks told the crowd. “I want you young ladies, the Girl Scouts and the big sisters, to have role models and mentors to turn to . . . for years and years.”
At home, Marks said he sometimes calls his daughter “Hutch.”
He said Lilly, who is shy at first but has an inquisitive mind and wild imagination, really takes that nickname to heart.