Although literary-historical studies have often focused on the range of dissenting religious groups and writers that flourished during the English Revolution, they have rarely had much to say about seventeenth-century Baptists, or, indeed, Baptist women. Baptist Women’s Writings in Revolutionary Culture, 1640-1680 fills that gap, exploring how female Baptists played a crucial role in the group’s formation and growth during the 1640s and 50s, by their active participation in religious and political debate, and their desire to evangelise their followers. The study significantly challenges the idea that women, as members of these congregations, were unable to write with any kind of textual authority because they were often prevented from speaking aloud in church meetings. On the contrary, Adcock shows that Baptist women found their way into print to debate points of church organisation and doctrine, to defend themselves and their congregations, to evangelise others by example and by teaching, and to prophesy, and discusses the rhetorical tactics they utilised in order to demonstrate the value of women’s contributions. In the course of the study, Adcock considers and analyses the writings of little-studied Baptist women, Deborah Huish, Katherine Sutton, and Jane Turner, as well as separatist writers Sara Jones, Susanna Parr, and Anne Venn. She also makes due connection to the more familiar work of Agnes Beaumont, Anna Trapnel, and Anne Wentworth, enabling a reassessment of the significance of those writings by placing them in this wider context. Writings by these female Baptists attracted serious attention, and, as Adcock discusses, some even found a trans-national audience.
Rachel Adcock is Lecturer in English at Keele University, UK.
"Adcock’s fascinating study draws our attention to a terrific range of Baptist women’s voices, and to the fierce connection between voice and authority emphasized in religious texts. In turns smart and engaging, this book shows Baptist women as staunch defenders of their congregations and intelligent readers of Scripture. Adcock demonstrates their remarkable participation in prophecy, church administration, and judgment and rebuke of disappointing leaders. Now we may acknowledge - and celebrate - the license given these women, and the extent of women’s contributions in the early days of the Baptist movement in and outside the church door." - Michele Osherow, University of Maryland, USA
"Rachel Adcock’s Baptist Women’s Writing in Revolutionary Culture, 1640–1660 is essential reading for students of early modern women’s literature. (...) Adcock’s account of Baptist women’s writing masterfully explores the complex interplay between religious belief and new ideals of liberty and individual rights that shaped this extraordinary canon of radical women’s writing." - Teresa Feroli, New York University, USA