Above her sex: The problem of public women

This presentation, by award-winning historian Eve LaPlante, explores the role of public women in early New England and how they were excluded. She looks, too, at women’s power exercised privately: in the home, in midwifery, and in healing. Anne Hutchinson, a prominent early settler who lived in Boston from 1634 until she was banished as a heretic three years later, combined both public and private powers and was punished for it. Click here for a 57-minute video of the on-line discussion presented by The Partnership of Historic Bostons on June 16, 2021.

Eve LaPlante, a direct descendant of Anne Hutchinson, is the author of  Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother (2012), Salem Witch Judge (2007), American Jezebel (2004), and Seized (1993), and the editor of My Heart Is Boundless: Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa’s Mother (2012). LaPlante’s articles appear in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Gourmet, Ladies’ Home Journal, Country Living, and Parents. Visit her online at www.evelaplante.com

There was some change, from an unexpected quarter. Sitting at the bedside of his ill daughter, former witchcraft judge Samuel Sewall (above, left) began to why women were not meant to rise to heaven on their deaths. He took up an old diary and began to write a short work, Talitha Cumi, an Aramaic phrase meaning “Maiden, arise.” In it he argued for the right of women. (Above, right) Queen Elizabeth demonstrated that women could hold power.

Women in 17th century New England, such as Ann Hutchinson, could not speak in public. They could not be judges, governors, or ministers. They could not vote, or sign a legal document. Women who ventured into the public arena were a problem. (Above, right) The entrance to the Ann Hutchinson Memorial is in Portsmouth, RI.