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Journal > Volumes > 37 (2006) / 4 (Winter)
Women’s Reading Practices in Seventeenth-Century England: Margaret Fell’s Women’s Speaking Justified
Jane Donawerth
University of Maryland

In Women’s Speaking Justified (1666) and other pamphlets, Margaret Fell quotes the King James Version of the Bible, but inaccurately. The mistakes are variants resulting from oral transmission: Fell has memorized much of the Bible. This discovery reinforces the views that speech, manuscript, and print were complementary rather than opposing modes in early modern England and that Quaker culture was dependent on memorizing. Fell’s quotations also show that she read comparatively, correcting the KJV against other translations, and that she seems to have memorized by topics rather than verse by verse. Fell’s reading practice thus demonstrates that humanist reading methods migrated from men with education in multiple languages to women with vernacular education but multiple translations in seventeenth-century England. Moreover, Fell provides a Quaker theory of reading: reading is not transporting outer knowledge to inner storage, but enriching outer translation by inner Word, creating a virtual Bible of the spirit.

Pages: 985 - 1 005