Sally Hutchinson: The Misfortunes of a Loyalist Woman (Part I)

This March we are celebrating Women's History Month by focusing on Sally Hutchinson in a series of posts.  Follow along as Marielle Boudreau, one of our Education Associates and first person interpreters, explores Sally's life during a tumultuous time in Boston's history.

When visitors enter the Old State House, they’re given cards to hang around their necks. In addition to being their ticket into the museum, these cards feature over one hundred different historical figures--real people who lived during the Revolution, known as “Revolutionary Characters.” Some Revolutionary Characters, like John Hancock and Samuel Adams, are well-known public figures, while others led relatively ordinary lives during an extraordinary time. Through the Revolutionary Characters Live program, costumed interpreters take on the roles of some of those real people and give in-character presentations to visitors several times a day. For the past two summers, I’ve played Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s oldest daughter Sarah, known to her family as “Sally.”

Mrs. Peter Oliver (Sarah Hutchinson) (d. 1780)
Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery
Because Sarah Hutchinson isn’t particularly famous or notable herself, she’s somewhat difficult to trace through history. We have no letters or documents written by Sally herself, so our main sources for her life are the papers of her father and the diary of her husband, Dr. Peter Oliver, Jr. But even though there are large gaps in our knowledge of Sally, we can piece together the details of her life through the documents that we do have, and we can make speculations about her personality.

Sarah Hutchinson was born on November 22, 1744, the third child and oldest daughter of Thomas and Margaret Sanford Hutchinson. Her mother died just ten years after she was born, soon after giving birth to the youngest Hutchinson child, Peggy. When her mother died, Sally’s maternal aunt Grizell Sanford moved in with the family in order to help keep house and raise the children. The family lived in a large house in Boston’s North End on Garden Court Street and they also owned a country estate in Milton on Unkity Hill. Sally was probably educated, like most girls of her class, by private tutors, while her brothers attended Boston Latin School and Harvard College.

In 1757, Peter Oliver, Jr. and his parents visited the Hutchinson family in Milton.  This was the first time that Sally met Peter, whom she would later marry.  Even before this union, the Hutchinson and Oliver families were already connected through marriage; Peter’s uncle Andrew Oliver was married to Sally’s aunt Mary Sanford. Peter was also later the Harvard roommate of Sally’s brother Elisha, and during his college years he seems to have grown close to Sally, writing “She had a very agreeable way in her behavior, which I remember pleased me more than any other of my female acquaintance, though I had not the least thought of any connection with her.” In 1761, Peter graduated from Harvard and moved away to Scituate to begin his medical training.

When the series continues, we jump to 1765 and learn what came next for Sally and Peter.

By Marielle Boudreau, Education Associate and Revolutionary Character