Changing Hierarchies in Early America

3882 words 16 pages
Changing Hierarchies in Early America

In “A Model of Christian Charity,” John Winthrop proposes to change the existing social and economic hierarchy. The old world social hierarchy divided the classes based on wealth and property. The highest class consisted of the king and royal family, then followed by the bishops. Next on the hierarchy were the nobles, gentlemen, and the wealthy. And at the bottom of the hierarchy of course, were the poor. Because of this extreme division, there was no middle ground between the wealthy and poor. That is, the old world hierarchy allowed the rich to hold power over the poor. The poor would live and work on the land in exchange for protection from the wealthy. In other words, the poor had to work as
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That is, she wanted to prevent the old world ideas of the gender hierarchy from being established in the new community. The old world idea held that men were the highest on the gender hierarchy. This was especially restraining because it limited a lot of what women could do. For example, women could not hold office in the government or church. Women could not vote. Additionally, although women were taught to read and write, they had to do so carefully. Often, literate women ran the risk of overstepping their boundaries or causing disapproval from society. One example of this is Anne Hutchinson, who was excommunicated because of the hysteria she caused due to her reading the Bible. Hutchinson interpreted the scriptures herself, and began preaching out of her home. She believed she could preach the truth because God had spoken to her. However, the assembly of the court disagreed and confirmed it was rather the devil who had invaded her mind (Morgan 135). In fact, Winthrop was on the committee that banished her. Another example is Anne Hopkins, whose husband left her because she “lost her mind.” Winthrop wrote in his journal that Mrs. Hopkins suffered from “the loss of her understanding and reason … by occasion of her giving herself wholly to reading and writing” (Johnson 140). He believed that if Mrs. Hopkins acted like a “good Puritan wife” and spent her time doing “women’s” work instead of reading, she may not


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