Anne Dutton, née Williams (1692?–1765) was a British Calvinist Baptist writer and theologian. Born in Northampton, England, probably in 1692, Anne contributed through her writings to the ongoing Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century England. She was a controversial defender of the Calvinistic Baptist theology.

Anna Dutton

Anne Dutton from Letters on Spiritual Subjects 1884 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Through her parents’ generosity, Anne obtained a religious education. Along with her parents, she attended the Independent church at Castle Hill in Northampton, pastored by John Hunt. Under Hunt’s pastoral care, Anne experienced conversion about thirteen; at age fifteen, she became member of the Castle Hill congregation. When her pastor died in 1709, Thomas Tingey became her new pastor. However, dissatisfied with her new minister, Anne left her church and joined John Moore’s Baptist congregation in Northampton, where she was baptized. Under Moore’s preaching, Anne matured spiritually.

In 1714 at age twenty-two, she married a man of whom little is known. A year later, from Northampton, she and her husband moved to London. There the couple attended the Baptist church in Cripplegate, pastored by the hyper-Calvinist John Skepp, who served this church from 1715 until his death in 1721. When Anne’s husband died in 1720, she moved back to Northampton. The following year, she married Benjamin Dutton (1691/92–1747), a Baptist preacher, who in 1732 became the pastor of the Baptist congregation in Great Gransden, Huntingdonshire. This church grew under the pastorate of Anne’s husband. The church’s growth resulted in constructing a new worship place and parsonage in 1743. On August 17 of that same year, Benjamin travelled to America either to raise funds for ministry or promote his wife’s published works, or both. His trip was successful, but on his return in 1747, the ship sank; he died by drowning at age fifty-six. Anne, who never had children of her own, remained a widow the rest of her life. She stayed in the Great Gransden congregation, spending much of her time writing theological treatises, poems, hymns, and letters. She corresponded with two key leaders of the Evangelical Revival: John Wesley (1703–1791) and George Whitefield (1714–1770). As a Calvinist, she supported Whitefield and critiqued Wesley. Through ink, she challenged Wesley’s views on election, atonement, and Christian perfection. She also wrote a letter to Robert Sandeman (1718–1781) and William Cudworth (1717/18-1763), refuting their antinomianism.

On November 18, 1765 at the age of seventy-three, Anne died, possibly from throat cancer. Her memorial stone, erected in Great Gransden, sums up her life thus: she “spent her life in the cause of God [and] was the author of 25 vol[ume]s of choice letters & 38 smaller works.” What Anne produced as a theological and spiritual writer became a rich contribution to studying Calvinist Baptist theology and spirituality. Her public use of her pen for God’s glory also broke the convention of her days and inspired other women to do the same.

Reference:

Bullock, Karen O’Dell. “Dutton [née Williams], Anne (1691×5–1765), writer and autobiographer.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: OUP, 2009.

Dutton, Anne. A Brief Account of the Gracious Dealings of God, with a Poor, Sinful, Unworthy Creature… London, 1750. (This is Anne’s autobiography.)

________. A letter to the Reverend Mr. John Wesley. In Vindication of the Doctrines of Absolute, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption… London, 1742.

________. Letter to the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, Against Perfection as Not Attainable in This Life. London, 1743.

________. A letter from Mrs. Anne Dutton, to the Reverend Mr. G. Whitefield. Philadelphia, 1743.

________. A letter to Mr. William Cudworth, In Vindication of the Truth from his Misrepresentations… London, 1747.

________. Mr. Sanddeman Refuted by an Old Woman… London, 1761.

Watson, Joann Ford. ed., Selected Spiritual Writings of Anne Dutton. 3 vols. 2003–2009 (Watson’s introduction, a brief biography of Anne Dutton, to volume one is valuable).

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