Secretaries of God: Women Prophets in Late Medieval and Early Modern England

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Diane Watt sets aside the conventional hiatus between the medieval and early modern periods in her study of women's prophecy, following the female experience from medieval sainthood to radical Protestantism. The English women prophets and visionaries whose voices are recovered here all lived between the twelfth and the seventeenth centuries and claimed, through the medium of trances and eucharistic piety, to speak for God. They include Margery Kempe and the medieval visionaries, Elizabeth Barton (the Holy Maid of Kent), the Reformation martyr Anne Askew and other godly women described in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, and Lady Eleanor Davies as an example of a woman prophet of the Civil War. The strategies women devised to be heard and read are exposed, showing that through prophecy they were often able to intervene in the religious and political discourse of the their times: the role of God's secretary gave them the opportunity to act and speak autonomously and publicly. This book is the winner of Foster Watson Memorial Gift for 1998. Diane Watt is Professor of English at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.