Modern History Sourcebook:
Radical Women During the English Revolution
One of the most interesting aspects of the English Revolution
of the 17th century was that it allowed popular ideas and discontents
to come to light, and better, be published in forms that are still
Women's Petition (1649)
The Humble Petition of divers well-affected women of the Cities
of London and Westminster, etc. Sheweth, that since we are assured
of our creation in the image of God, and of an interest in Christ
equal unto men, as also of a proportional share in the freedoms
of this Commonwealth, we cannot but wonder and grieve that we
should appear so despicable in your eyes, as to be thought unworthy
to petition or represent our grievances to this honorable House.
Have we not an equal interest with the men of this Nation, in
those liberties and securities contained in the Petition of Right,
and the other good laws of the land? Are any of our lives, limbs,
liberties or goods to be taken from us more than from men, but
by due process of law and conviction of twelve sworn men of the
And can you imagine us to be so sottish or stupid, as not to perceive,
or not to be sensible when daily those strong defenses of our
peace and welfare are broken down, and trod under foot by force
and arbitrary power?
Would you have us keep at home in our houses, when men of such
faithfulness and integrity as the FOUR PRISONERS our friends in
the Tower are fetched out of their beds, and forced from their
houses by soldiers, to the affrighting and undoing of themselves,
their wives, children and families? Are not our husbands, ourselves,
our children and families by the same rule as liable to the like
unjust cruelties as they? . . . Doth not the Petition of Right
declare that no person ought to be judged by Law Martial (except
in time of war) . . . ? And are we Christians and shall we sit
still and keep at home, while such men as have borne continual
testimony against the unjustice of all times, and unrighteousness
of men, be picked out and delivered up to the slaughter . . .
No.... Let it be accounted folly, presumption ... or whatsoever
in us ... we will never forsake them, nor ever cease to importune
you . . for justice . . . that we, our husbands, children, friends
and servants may not be liable to be thus abused, violated and
butchered at men's wills and pleasures . . .
From J. O'Faolain and L Martines, Not in God's Image (New
York: Harper and Row, 1973), pp. 266-267.
Some of the radical groups were the religious sects which
held that women could be preachers and ministers. Mary Cary was
associated with the "Fifth Monarchy" sect.
From Mary Cary. The New Jerusalem's Glory
And if there be very few men that are thus furnished with the
gift of the Spirit; how few are the women! Not but that there
are many godly women, many who have indeed received the Spirit:
but in how small a measure is it? how weak are they? and how unable
to prophesie? for it is that that I am speaking of, which this
text says they shall do; which yet we see not fulfilled.... But
the time is coming when this promise shall be fulfilled, and the
Saints shall be abundantly filled with the spirit; and not only
men, but women shall prophesie; not only aged men, but young men;
not only superiours, but inferiours; not only those that have
University learning, but those that have it not; even servants
From M. Cary, The New Jerusalem's Glory (London, 1656),
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(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997