Margery Kempe Medieval Autobiographer

Becca Anderson (author of The Book of Awesome Women) tells of the extraordinary, ordinary housewife and mother in this blog post.

Margery Kempe herself is the best source of information on her life, having written her autobiography—the first of its kind in English—in the fourteenth century. Born in 1373, she was the daughter of the mayor of the town of Lynn in Norfolk, England. She married late for the times—at twenty—and got pregnant right away. While undergoing a wretchedly long and painful labor, she went mad and became violent, tearing at her own flesh, shrieking, having visions of devils, and screaming obscenities about her husband, her neighbors and friends, and herself. She claimed to be calmed down when Christ himself appeared to her in a vision, and indeed, she returned to her life as a wife and mother and bore thirteen more children.

Margery Kempe was profoundly changed, however, by her vision and decided to dedicate her life to Christian mysticism, as she continued to experience visitations and fits of weeping. She undertook a journey to the Holy Land, traveling alone from England across the continent to the Middle East. Her religious intentions meant nothing to those she met along the way; she was treated horribly and was called a whore and a heretic. She was jailed for her efforts and forced to defend herself with no help. Her recollections of the time depict a woman heeding a calling, torn between her love of Christ and her love for her family.

Despite all her tribulations, she managed to live a long life. Unable to write herself, she worked with hesitant scribes to compose her life story. Called The Book of Margery Kempe, this literary treasure was lost for nearly five hundred years. Thankfully, a copy was rediscovered in 1934, and Britain’s first autobiographical text is again telling the story of this extraordinary, ordinary housewife and mother.

And sometimes those that men think were revelations are deceit and illusions, and therefore it is not expedient to give readily credence to every stirring.

Margery Kempe

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women Writers by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.


The Book of Awesome Women

Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes & Female Firsts

Super women as female role models. From the foremothers who blazed trails and broke barriers, to today’s women warriors from sports, science, cyberspace, city hall, the lecture hall, and the silver screen, The Book of Awesome Women paints 200 portraits of powerful and inspiring role models for women and girls poised to become super women of the future. Discover some of the most awesome women known to history while celebrating the greatness of females all over!

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