Feminism in The Book of Margery Kempe

There are so many things to talk about when it comes to The Book of Margery Kempe. The text is filled with interesting perspective on religion, religious institutions, and affect of piety, but I am going to focus in on Margery Kempe as a precursor to the modern feminist. Although she does not stand up for women’s rights in an outward and straightforward way, she does resist the patriarchal rules of men.  To begin, she often gives men advice or asserts her opinion onto them.  For example, in Chapter 50 when a priest speaks and swears at Margery when she does not answer him, she reprimands the priest to “keep the commandments” (645).  She is not afraid to speak up about her religious convictions, which she often must do to powerful men who look down on her.  In Chapter 52, a clerk tells Margery that women are not allowed to preach according to the Bible, but she asserts “I use only conversation and good words, and that I will do as long as I live” (648).  Yet again in Chapter 53, she is put down for being a women when she is told that she should give up the life she is living and “go spin and card as other women do,” but again Margery refuses to give up her convictions or conform to gender rules (649).  All of her convictions are through her religious beliefs, and not through a want for women’s rights, however, she does stand up for herself as a women in a time when women were expected to conform to one role.

1 thought on “Feminism in The Book of Margery Kempe

  1. You do a good job here of noting the particular ways Margery’s actions challenge social norms surrounding gender–and are suitably careful not to claim her as a feminist seeing women’s rights in the sense that her challenges aren’t motivated by that specific goal.

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