A “Heroick and Masculine-Spirited Championess”: Deborah in Early Modern Gender Debates

Joy A. Schroeder

in Deborah's Daughters

Published in print March 2014 | ISBN: 9780199991044
Published online April 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780199359615 | DOI:
A “Heroick and Masculine-Spirited Championess”: Deborah in Early Modern Gender Debates

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In the Early Modern period (1600–1800), there was a virtual explosion of female-authored publications. Women scholars, poets, and public speakers argued that they were following the example of biblical women like Deborah. Deborah was evidence that a woman could judge, rule, study, and speak publicly. Rivkah bat Meir, a Jewish writer from Prague, used Deborah’s story to advocate for women’s education. Proto-feminist English poet Amelia Lanyer said Deborah exemplifies godly women called to “bring down the pride and arrogance” of oppressive men. Male authors, seeking to expand the market for their books, became increasingly conscious that women were potential readers and patrons. Thus they wrote collections of short biographies of noteworthy women in publications intended for female readership. Such anthologies usually included Deborah, who was considered “heroick and masculine-spirited.” Nevertheless, most Early Modern men spoke about Deborah’s heroism to reinforce conventional views about male dominance and female submission.

Keywords: Amelia Lanyer; Rivkah bat Meir; Early Modern; proto-feminism; proto-feminist

Chapter.  15643 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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