Rachel Speght and the Muzzling of a King: The Beginning of the "Calvinist Revolution" in the Pamphlets of a Spinster

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0009-0009-4613-4438
Peterson, Crystalina, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Lambert, Erin, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia
Halliday, Paul, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia
Gratien, Christopher, AS-History (HIST), University of Virginia

The first half of the seventeenth century highlighted tensions between different religious sects and opposing political factions. Fears surrounding religious radicals in government and a foreign and possibly tyrannical ruler eventually culminated in the English Civil War. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Calvinist Revolution,’ it has been largely framed as a male revolt against the Stuarts and their inner circle of favorites; while there is literature regarding women’s work and actions during the war, there is less available about women’s role in more subversive actions leading up to the 1640s.
Rachel Speght is best known for her involvement in the Swetnam controversy, which revolved around Joseph Swetnam and the repeated republishing of his pamphlet "An Arraignment of Women;" but there may be more to Speght’s motivations for responding than has been previously thought. Throughout her writings, Speght uses Biblical texts and theological rhetoric to advance her arguments against Swetnam, to defend women’s education, and to stand against James Stuart’s monarchy as a violation of God’s purpose. Her heavy reliance on scripture to support her assertions about authority demonstrates the importance that her religious beliefs held for Speght in forming both her personal identity and her view of early seventeenth-century England. Her implementation of polemical debate provides a place to identify the language of the Calvinist revolution before the revolution itself took shape.

MA (Master of Arts)
early modern women writers, English Civil War, religious identity, seventeenth century
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