The following article by Joe Baker appeared in the July 23, 3016 Issue of the Newport Daily News

 

Party to celebrate Hutchinson makes Portsmouth stop

The Portsmouth Historical Society and the Friends of Anne Hutchinson help mark the 17th century accomplishments of one of Portsmouth’s founders.

By Joe Baker

Staff writer

PORTSMOUTH — Marinn Danis of East Providence learned what she considered a fascinating tidbit about Anne Hutchinson, one of the founders of Portsmouth in 1638, during a celebratory event held Friday at Founders’ Brook Park.

“She had a lot of children — 15,” the 8½-year-old girl said.

Marinn attended the event with her mother, Christie Danis, and Cris Monteiro, a family friend from Cranston.

“She just sounded like a really smart person, way ahead of her time,” Monteiro said of Hutchinson, explaining why the three stopped in Portsmouth on their way to the Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams State Park in Newport.

Co-sponsored by the Portsmouth Historical Society and the locally based Friends of Anne Hutchinson, the event was part of a five-day, three-state celebration of Hutchinson’s 17th century accomplishments.

The larger event is the first of what its parent organization, Founding Mothers Celebration, said will be an annual commemoration of early American women whose accomplishments never got the recognition they deserved during their lifetimes.

Eric Nielsen, a Hutchinson descendant who grew up in California, said he inherited historical information about his family after his mother’s death. He discovered the connection to Hutchinson, he said, and then had a strange dream that prompted him to turn his research into a celebratory event.

“I had a dream where Anne was in period garb and I was off in a corner,” Nielsen said Friday. “She turned to me and said, ‘Son, finish the job.’ Then I woke up.”

He decided to take Hutchinson’s legacy and promote it as something women today can point to with pride. The fact that a 17th century woman made important contributions to society in an era when women were deemed second-class citizens and almost never were part of the decision-making process should inspire women of the 21st century, he said.

Nielsen eventually connected with Devon Marks, another Hutchinson descendant who hails from Massachusetts, and they formed Founding Mothers Celebration.

A trip to Founders’ Brook Park, located off Old Boyd’s Lane, spurred Marks’ interest in honoring his ancestor. He made a day trip there two years ago with his then 2½-yearold daughter, Lillian Grace Hutchinson Boone Marks, shortly after he learned about the park.

“I spent a beautiful afternoon here,” Marks said Friday, “and it’s a treasured memory for me and my little munchkin. We want to celebrate women who were marginalized and written out of history by men.”

The five-day celebration began Wednesday with a speech by former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis at the Anne Hutchinson statue in front the Commonwealth’s statehouse in Boston. There was a panel discussion, also in Boston, about Hutchinson and her genealogy Thursday.

The party shifted to Portsmouth on Friday morning, when more than 40 people turned out for the event at the park. Later, Jim Garman, the town historian and president of the Portsmouth Historical Society, gave a lecture at the Portsmouth Free Public Library about Hutchinson and some of her followers, who split a year after arriving. Those who left Portsmouth moved south, where they established Newport, which soon became one of the most important trading ports in the colonies.

Marks declared Founding Mothers Celebration’s first event in Portsmouth a success. The day included a wine-tasting at Greenvale Vineyards, which is owned by Nancy Parker Wilson, another Hutchinson descendant.

“We sold out our events in Boston, and we loved walking this sliver of green and family history that is Founders’ Brook Park,” Marks said. “We are just thrilled with the number of people that came out.”

Baker@NewportRI.com