By the sex of her body she, womankind, is submissive to the masculine sex.
St Augustine of Hippo
Biographical accounts of twelve women who spoke out against the mainstream teachings of the church and extended the envelope of expectation for women. The strongest voices in Christian history in religious and secular society gave women only a very limited role, but there have always been those who disagreed with that view and often with other orthodoxy. Frequently reviled, many of these women nevertheless had significant influence. Here you can read about:
- Elizabeth Barton, ‘The Maid of Kent’, hanged for treason at Tyburn.
- St Teresa of Avila, the reforming nun regarded by many of her contemporaries as possessed by the devil.
- Madam Guyon, half saint, half lunatic.
- The Countess of Huntingdon, builder of churches who was ‘all aflame for Jesus’ and loved her fellow humans – provided they did her bidding.
- Ann Lee, Mother of the Shaker movement, who saw herself as the human incarnation of Christ’s femininity.
- Joanna Southcott, who died at age 64 giving birth to the future Messiah, leaving behind her box of mysteries to be opened by twenty-four bishops.
- The Baroness de Krudener, whose inner voice made her the confessor of princes and emperors.
- Lydia Sellon, intrepid daughter of a senior naval officer, who refounded the monastic life for women in the Church of England.
- Mary Baker Eddy, whose recovery from illness led to the foundation of Christian Science.
- Madame Blavatsky, the theosophist of questionable honesty who championed the doctrine that ‘There is no religion higher than truth!’
- Mother Cecilia Dodd, lover of animals, who was unable to tolerate human discipline.
- Aimée Semple Macpherson, Mother of radio evangelism, whose disappearances provided the press with lurid headlines.