John Foxe’s Actes and Monuments is a formative text of English Protestantism, the martyrs described within it generally thought to have been intended to serve as prototype English Protestants. However, Foxe’s female martyrs, by defying their husbands, frequently subvert expectations for female virtue, which did not go unnoticed by Catholic polemicists. While failing explicitly to defend his female martyrs’ virtue, Foxe did not intend to advocate female disorder. By conflating his martyrs with the type of the true church described in the book of Revelation, he embedded patriarchal values in his descriptions of disorderly women who are wholly submissive to their heavenly spouse, their defiance of their earthly husbands signaling their marital subjection. Nevertheless, in a milieu in which women’s obedience to spousal authority reflected and was thought crucial to political and social order, women’s marital disobedience had the potential to supply a model of political resistance for men and women.
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