-Ask some volunteers (13) to take on the roles for the Anne Hutchinson trial.
-Assign roles and give each volunteer a packet to take home to review so they’re ready to read/play their part. [Prepare 13 packets (bigger print) and highlight the parts each person reads.]
-Give the readers a chance to ask questions about vocabulary.
What is politics? Give me some examples. [Work toward a broad definition—not just office holding, but deciding what the rules are and contesting them. Also toward the idea of office holding, internal contests for power and rules, and external political conflicts too.]
What do you know about politics in Puritan New England?
-First, let them talk a little about what they know.
-Describe the political structure of society a bit (governor, town meetings, elections; not a theocracy though to vote you had to be a church member; Puritan standards = key in defining rules; some (but not all) also follow English law)
Prepare class to use the note-taking guide.
Volunteers read/role play the trial.
-Put the members of the court up front around the board table.
-INTRODUCE: The members of the court, Anne Hutchinson, AND the location of the trial.
-Have the volunteers read/role play the trial. Remind them to be realistic and not to go TOO fast.
As they do, the audience members should make quick notes on their note-taking guide about elements of this trial that show the political structure of the society AND elements of this trial that show the conflicts over the rules (outside of office-holding).
After the role-play, EVERYONE write in your journal: How does Anne Hutchinson’s trial help us understand the politics of Puritan society in 1637?
Report out from a few people (can take questions too).
Make sure everyone gets the Anne Hutchinson transcript to take home.
Is there anything in this trial, either stated or implied, that tells us about the politics of the relations between Massachusetts Bay and outsiders? Who ARE the outsiders? (Indians, England, France) How might Massachusetts’ relations with any of these groups affect the government’s reasons for concern about Anne Hutchinson? About their decision to banish her? [This is speculation, really. You might note that she went to Rhode Island where Roger Williams—who advocated purchasing land from Indians—was sent. Or wonder about whether the English government would condone executing Puritan heretics. Did they have any say, since Massachusetts had its own charter?
Take away from this: When we talk about politics, we are talking about the rules (including, but not limited to, structures for the society) that govern the community internally and in terms of its relations with other communities. Who makes the rules? Who contests them? Why? How?
The documents for Anne Hutchinson unit were taken from:
William Bruce Wheeler and Susan D. Becker, DISCOVERING THE AMERICAN PAST: A LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE, vol. 1 to 1877 (Houghton Mifflin).
You can find the transcript of her trial online at: