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Heroic Souls: Reading the Cambridge Women’s Records

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Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1638–1649

Part of the book series: Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World ((CTAW))

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Rogers-Stokes challenges the negative reading of the women’s records of trial sessions with Thomas Shepard in puritan Cambridge that is central to the established scholarship. This chapter reveals seemingly average seventeenth-century women who possessed deliberately created, strikingly powerful, confident, and independent spiritual identities that existed outside of, and were untrammeled by, their public lives as political second-class citizens. Rogers-Stokes argues persuasively that their negative assumptions about puritan society and religion have blinded scholars to the autonomy and anachronistic individuality of the Cambridge women, whose new spiritual identity existed parallel to their established political identity, and while it made few waves in the political status quo, it gave them a vital agency, and a heroic sense of their own spiritual power and importance, that is lacking in their Old English counterparts.

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  1. 1.

    George Selement and Bruce C. Woolley, eds. Thomas Shepard’s Confessions (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1981): 99.

  2. 2.

    Patricia Caldwell also singles this record out for its strong “sense of self-willed movement,” noting how often Katharine says “I,” and using the “self-scrutinizing ‘I’” that Stephanie Kirk and Sarah Rivett insist the women of Cambridge were incapable of inhabiting. Caldwell focuses her reading on the impact of Katharine’s emigration to New England. Patricia Caldwell, The Puritan Conversion Narrative: The Beginnings of American Expression (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983): 27–30. Stephanie Kirk and Sarah Rivett, “Religious Transformations in the Early Modern Americas,” Early American Literature 45, no. 1, Special Issue: Methods for the Study of Religion in Early American Literature (2010), 72.

  3. 3.

    She was mostly likely already in service, as most people in trial sessions talk about how leaving home made them more self-aware.

  4. 4.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 99–101.

  5. 5.

    The “nearly step-by-step increase in female communicants” in the Congregational churches of seventeenth-century Massachusetts, from the 1630s to the 1690s, so great that “by the latter decade each church had about seven women joining for every three men,” may be explained in part by this equality found within the early puritan church. Gerald F. Moran, “‘Sisters’ in Christ: Women and the Church in Seventeenth-Century New England,” in Women in American Religion, ed. Janet Wilson James, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980): 50.

  6. 6.

    Thomas Freeman, quoted in Ann Hughes, “Anglo-American Puritanisms: Introduction,” Journal of British Studies 39, no. 1 (January 2000), 6. Hughes notes immediately after this quote that this female independence is interpreted by Freeman as a “female soteriological despair” that “led women to seek reassurance from a male cleric, who could be a substitute for the other male authority figures—fathers and husbands—who had been challenged for the sake of true religion.” Freeman also posits that “male martyrs tended to replace the traditional male authority figures (fathers, husbands, and so on) in the lives of Marian Protestant women.” This was, as I have shown in Chap. 3, the case in English records, but not in the women’s records from Cambridge in New England. Thomas Freeman, “‘The Good Ministrye of Godlye and Vertuouse Women’: The Elizabethan Matryrologists and the Female Supporters of the Marian Martyrs,” Journal of British Studies 39, no. 1 (January 2000), 16.

  7. 7.

    Many women quote the same Bible verses in their narratives, but they don’t always play the same role in all spiritual journeys.

  8. 8.

    Susan Juster describes this well: “close scrutiny of the psychological dynamics of the conversion experience reveals an androgynous model of regeneration that ultimately echoes the Biblical affirmation that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave not free, male nor female. Though evangelical men and women reached the pinnacle of grace through different paths, the final destination is the same for both sexes: a mature union with God that can best be described as the recovery of moral agency and spiritual potency. … the female conception of authority concerns the relationship of the self with an other”—that “other” being God alone. Susan Juster, “‘In a Different Voice’: Male and Female Narratives of Religious Conversion in Post-Revolutionary America,” American Quarterly 41, no. 1 (March 1989), 36-7, 39.

  9. 9.

    Half of the men (14) were identified by Shepard simply by their first and last names (“John Sill his Confession”). Five were identified by “Goodman” (Robert Daniel, Edward Shepard, John Fessenden, Nicholas Wyeth, John Funnell). Seven were given the title “Mr.” (Nathaniel Eaton, Nathaniel Sparhawk, Robert Sanders, Edward Collins, William Andrews, Henry Dunster, John Haynes). Two anomalies are Sr. Jones, which means “sizar,” or a scholarship student at Harvard, that is, John Jones, and “Our brother Jackson’s man Richard Eagle.”

  10. 10.

    It’s unclear why Dorcas Bridge was identified as Dorcas Downey; she may not have been married when she joined the trial session Shepard is recording and married when she later gave her full narrative. If this happened shortly after her trial, this could make sense. Mary, wife of Nathaniel Sparhawk, is recorded as Mary Angier, and this remains unclear to me, as she was definitely married to Nathaniel when Shepard recorded her narrative.

  11. 11.

    The Cambridge town records, for example, include “Widow Greene” (Ellen Greene) in a list of householders by the Fresh Pond and “widd: Cutter” and “mrs Sarah Sims” in the list of recipients of land in the Shawshine grant. Edward J. Brandon, ed., Records of the Town of Cambridge (Formerly Newetowne) Massachusetts, 1630–1703 (Baltimore: Clearfield Company, Inc., 2002), 19, 98. David Hall states that while puritan women in New England were thus “officially silent and submissive and never included in the category of freeman,” women were able to perform some civil roles, by petitioning, serving as executors of wills, “and as widows or femmes soles managed households and the property attached to them.” David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England (New York: A. A. Knopf, 2011), 71–72. Despite this, and their crucial role in the exchange economy, Congregational women in the mid-1600s had no legal identity or power.

  12. 12.

    The same is also true for the men who featured in church discipline documentation.

  13. 13.

    As Evelyn Fox notes about Lady Margaret Hoby, a Puritan gentlewoman in England who kept at least one spiritual diary in the late sixteenth century, these records had the “view of recording her spiritual experiences and noting down her religious exercises; it was to be a book of reference to which she might turn and see how and when she had erred, and what duties she had omitted.” Evelyn Fox, “The Diary of an Elizabethan Gentlewoman,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 2 (1908), 159–160. I would add these records also noted successes and experiences of hope. What they did not include was deliberate mention of domestic life and non-religious personal experiences, though these do sometimes appear as now-fascinating side notes.

  14. 14.

    Capt. Daniel Gookin, Mary Gookin, John Shepard, Jane Stevenson, John Sill, and Alice Stedman all use the word “secret” to describe their seeking. Mary Angier says she “kept her condition close;” she also confesses that she “began to neglect Lord in private,” emphasizing the need to live a parallel private life of spiritual seeking at all times. Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions 66–7. John Trumbull noted that “there was a retiredness in saints. Saints went most in private between God and their souls.” Golden Moore concurred, noting that he would “bemoan my condition in private.” Mr. Haynes describes his efforts to hide his spiritual “perplexity,” saying he was “scarce able to hide it from others,” not in the sense that he wants to keep up a good show of spirituality but more because he needs, at that difficult point, to keep his journey between himself and God lest it become derailed. Sr. Jones remembers that when he “went to company [it] did me much hurt” and he hesitated to “make known my estate.” Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 109, 122, 167, 199.

  15. 15.

    “Puritan conversion narratives have generally been seen as androgynous. [If] the Spirit worked equally in Puritan women and men, their narratives nonetheless reflect disparity between them with regard to a sense of self. Women heeded their ministers’ words that unregenerate sinners were completely reprobate in the strictest sense. … Women [tended] to identify themselves with their debauched souls… In contrast men focused on particular sins, separating their natures from the sins they committed.” Elizabeth Reis, “Seventeenth Century Conversion Narratives,” in Religions of the United States in Practice, Volume 1, ed. Colleen McDannell (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 24–25. Furthermore, men who confessed particular sins usually connected them to an unworthy nature. Reis herself notes that “For sins [Nathaniel Eaton] committed in ‘Sabbath breaking and company keeping,’ he blamed ‘the hidden corruption of my own heart.” Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997): 50.

  16. 16.

    “The force of this outlook is, inevitably, to esteem the latent content of human productions over the manifest and to slight the reasons people advance for their own behavior. … this attitude may tempt the historian to disregard what people say about themselves in order to divine the ‘real,’ underlying reasons for their activity. Such procedure is presumptuous, because historical actors know more about themselves than we ever will.” Charles Cohen, God’s Caress: The Psychology of Puritan Religious Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986): 19–20.

  17. 17.

    John Cotton, Of the Holinesse, 48–9.

  18. 18.

    See the short profiles provided for each woman by Selement and Woolley, and scattered appearances in the Records of the Town of Cambridge (Formerly Newetowne). Samuel Eliot Morison reproduced a map of Cambridge in 1637 created by Dr. Albert P. Norris, with a key to inhabitants that includes most of the people in Shepard’s early records of trial. Samuel Eliot Morison, The Founding of Harvard College (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), four unnumbered pages between 192 and 193.

  19. 19.

    Smith does say that her husband “much encouraged” her once they were in New England. Mary Rhinelander McCarl, “Thomas Shepard’s Record of Relations of Religious Experience, 1648–1649,” The William and Mary Quarterly 48, no. 3 (July 1991), 464. The rarity of this kind of reference confirms Selement and Woolley’s assertion that “Puritan women usually functioned independently from their men in the matter of receiving grace.” Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 5. Manchester quotes William Gouge who, in his book Of Domesticall Duties (1622), affirms that wives “may not be subject in anything to their husbands that cannot stand with their subjection to the Lord.” Margaret Manchester, “‘Much Afflicted with Conscience’: The Verins and the Puritan Order,” Journal of Family History 42(3), 2017, 223.

  20. 20.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 135. They omit the struck-through “hum.” The verses Golden quotes are Psalms 130:1–5: “out of the deep places have I called unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears attend to the voice of my prayers. If thou, O Lord, straightly markest iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But mercy is with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I have waited on the Lord: my soul hath waited, and I have trusted in his word.”

  21. 21.

    David D. Hall and Anne Brown note that “parents with young children were willing in the 1630s to risk the voyage to New England if doing so would enable them to bring their children up within a church [founded] on a true basis.” But then they list only Mrs. Crackbone and Mary Angier, because so few parents in these records mention their children at all. David D. Hall and Anne S. Brown, “Family Strategies and Religious Practice: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in Early New England,” in Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice, ed. David D. Hall (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997): 51.

  22. 22.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 66, 185.

  23. 23.

    Selement and Woolley state that “The name of Gilbert Crackbone’s first wife, who made her profession of faith around 1640, is nowhere recorded.” The missing Cambridge church records of births, marriages, and deaths hamper our efforts to find out more about many of these women.

  24. 24.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 144–6.

  25. 25.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 50.

  26. 26.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 148.

  27. 27.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 151.

  28. 28.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 194–5.

  29. 29.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 438–9.

  30. 30.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 453, 438.

  31. 31.

    Jane Champney (Goodwife Champney), wife of respected ruling elder Richard Champney, echoed Mary Gookin by stating that once in New England she too was “discontented wt my marryed condition” and “thoght to goe back” to England but did not specify the source of her discontent. Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 191. It may have sprung from living in her husband’s spiritual shadow—or from his possible attempts to direct or control his wife’s own spiritual seeking.

  32. 32.

    My interpretation here is supported by Kenneth Minkema (private email, October 30, 2017). Michael Ditmore notes that “Cotton uses the standard sermon form idiosyncratically to frustrate and even subvert its linear narrativistic tendencies. It was entirely characteristic of him to do so, I would argue, because he could not theologically accept the concept of an extended temporal sequence in the conversion process. Apparently his skepticism was so pronounced that he could not even bring himself to write about his own spiritual estate, as his colleagues were doing. …I find it highly unlikely that he would have expected prospective saints to offer a spiritual relation that would inevitably conform, more or less, to the very model of which he himself was skeptical.” Michael G. Ditmore, “Preparation and Confession: Reconsidering Edmund S. Morgan’s Visible Saints,” The New England Quarterly 67, no. 2 (June 1994), 310–311. This might explain Mary Gookin’s difficulty trying to apply Cotton’s sermons to her own spiritual preparation. This would be a substantial barrier to her spiritual progress. Remembering the sermon was a crucial component of spiritual analysis: as Thomas Hooker said, “a poor ignorant creature … remembers nothing, or if [he] remember something yet he knows no more the thing than a Parrat. But when God hath once turned him, and left this sett upon his understanding … He can understand it, and remember it.” Quoted in Rachel Trocchio, “Thinking as Grace in Thomas Hooker’s New England,” American Literature 90, no. 4 (December 2018), 699. Mary Gookin’s craving for understanding through memory is one more piece of evidence disproving the theory that the Cambridge puritan women’s spiritual seeking was purely emotional.

  33. 33.

    McCarl, “Thomas Shepard’s Record,” 464.

  34. 34.

    McCarl, “Thomas Shepard’s Record,” 185.

  35. 35.

    James Wade Ferris Collins, “The Family and American Descendants of Deacon Edward Collins of Cambridge, Medford, and Charlestown, Massachusetts,” The New England Historic Genealogical Register 174 (Winter 2020), 53, 56. Her children were Daniel, 11; John, 8; Sybil, 6; Samuel, 4; and Martha, 1. Samuel and Martha were born in New England.

  36. 36.

    Martha Collins also mentions her children, making her the only one of the thirty-one women to mention both husband and children in a narrative.

  37. 37.

    As Amanda Porterfield puts it, “Puritans not only expected wives to be submissive to their husbands, but also to find pleasure in their subjection … husbands [were] to love their wives through their exercise of authority [and] expected wives to find pleasure in subjection to their husbands.” Again, this held true in society and politics, but not within the realm of the spiritual. Amanda Porterfield, Female Piety in Puritan New England: The Emergence of Religious Humanism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992): 20. In her Introduction, Porterfield describes how it was only after the collapse of puritan dominance in New England that women were stripped of this religious autonomy.

  38. 38.

    Margaret Manchester, “Much Afflicted with Conscience,” 222. What’s remarkable about the Cambridge records is how little disapproval the women record; there is almost none, and what is recorded seems not to have troubled them much.

  39. 39.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 131.

  40. 40.

    The tools of puritan spiritual preparation, the most crucial of which were Bible reading; daily, spontaneous prayer; and attending and discussing the sermons of a sound reformed minister.

  41. 41.

    James Wade Ferris Collins, “The Family and American Descendants of Deacon Edward Collins,” 58.

  42. 42.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 131–-2. This is an interesting echo of Mary Gookin’s problems with Cotton and his church.

  43. 43.

    It is possible that Martha only heard people in Cambridge talking about Boston and its practices, but the use of the word “hearing” in the Cambridge narratives is very specific and always means hearing something firsthand, whether it is attending a sermon or talking with another person. It rarely means secondhand information.

  44. 44.

    See Baird Tipson, “A Dark Side of Seventeenth-Century English Protestantism: The Sin against the Holy Spirit,” The Harvard Theological Review 77, no. 3/4 (July–October 1984), for a full description of this sin that preoccupied and frightened puritans and Congregationalists in the sixteenth century. My own experience transcribing Congregational church records and relations proves this fear was, remarkably, still very powerful well into the nineteenth century in Congregational churches and frequently referred to explicitly.

  45. 45.

    It’s telling that Shepard originally wrote “hearing” then inserted “reading” to describe Martha’s experience. She did not hear a minister or companion talking about the verse; she found it through her own reading. This was important to both Martha and Shepard, evidence of God speaking to her directly through his word.

  46. 46.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 132.

  47. 47.

    So we see that Shepard is not asking difficult questions and accepting incomplete answers because, as a puritan, he could never be certain that he had assurance, and “alternated between moods of assurance and extreme anxiety,” meaning that the weak assurance expressed by “all 50 of Shepard’s candidates” “satisfied Shepard,” and was enough to grant them church membership. Mary Cochran Grimes, “Saving Grace Among Puritans and Quakers: A Study of 17th and 18th Century Conversion Experiences,” Quaker History 72, no. 1 (Spring 1983), 22, 21.

  48. 48.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions,76–-7.

  49. 49.

    Selement comments on this boldness: “Jane Holmes even denounced an English vicar she had once met as ‘an opposer of the truth.’” George Selement, “The Meeting of Elite and Popular Minds at Cambridge, New England, 1638–1645,” The William and Mary Quarterly 41, no. 1 (January 1984), 44.

  50. 50.

    Elizabeth Olbon (Goodman Luxford’s wife) recounts a similar encounter with a charismatic Puritan woman; in fact, it is the opening of her relation: “From a speech of a sister who said she was going to means and I going from it was stirred. And by her conversation, mine was condemned and hence [I] desired to live from her and to go to another place. And there [I] was troubled and desired to go live again with her whereby [I] saw more of my sin.” Olbon meets this “sister” just as Olbon is abandoning the means of spiritual seeking; the sister inspires Olbon to return to them (“I going from it was stirred”). She must have joined the Puritan lay leader’s household, for when that woman gets into political trouble for her public statements (“conversation”) Olbon by extension does, too, and leaves her household. But she is “troubled” once she leaves and realizes that she cannot continue with her spiritual journey without this Puritan woman’s support. Olbon decides to forsake safety for grace and returns to the household, where her sacrifice is rewarded with progress—she is able to discover sin that would have prevented her from ever humbling herself properly before God. Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 39.

  51. 51.

    For example, Stephen Foster, “New England and the Challenge of Heresy, 1630 to 1660: The Puritan Crisis in Transatlantic Perspective,” The William and Mary Quarterly 38, no. 4 (October 1981), 652–653. Theodore Dwight Bozeman is one example that stands for many of including a mention of Underhill’s “efforts to seduce Jane Holmes” in any description of Underhill; see The Precisionist Strain: Disciplinary Religion & Antinomian Backlash in Puritanism to 1638 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004): 286 n. 6.

  52. 52.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 77–80.

  53. 53.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 66, 90, 151, 104, 137; McCarl, “Thomas Shepard’s Record,” 460, 441. In Oakes, McCarl has “[not] desire to speak.” but that makes less sense.

  54. 54.

    Patricia Caldwell, The Puritan Conversion Narrative: The Beginnings of American Expression (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1983):102–3.

  55. 55.

    Caldwell, The Puritan Conversion Narrative, 104.

  56. 56.

    John Rogers, Tabernacle for the Sun, 294, 293.

  57. 57.

    Richard Mather reserved public relations to those who were “of more spiritual abilities,” who might “do of themselves in a continued Speech, declare the sum of the confession of their faith, in their own words.” He did not specify which sex might possess more spiritual ability. Richard Mather, An Apologie of the Churches in New England, 1639, 29,;view=fulltext

  58. 58.

    Sarah Rivett, The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 97, 106, 111.

  59. 59.

    Rivett, The Science of the Soul, 113; Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 40.

  60. 60.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 51.

  61. 61.

    The idea that “for [eighteenth-century American] women, rebellion against God’s authority and its secular representatives (ministers, fathers, husbands) was the underlying dynamic of conversion” is certainly not true for these seventeenth-century women of Cambridge. There is no sense of rebellion in the Cambridge women’s accounts; they respect ministers and elders and often seek their counsel. But they know that this counsel, and these men, cannot clear the way to understanding. That work is the women’s own. Susan Juster, “In a Different Voice,” 36.

  62. 62.

    Rivett, The Science of the Soul, 114; McCarl, “Thomas Shepard’s Record,” 442, 443; Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 65–69. Meredith Neumann counters this interpretation, saying that “the relationship between auditor and sermon was far from passive” and that “The confessions may say as much about Shepard as they do about individual confessors, but part of what they reveal is the minister as auditor.” Jeremiah’s Scribes: Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013): 8, 185. Rivett’s reading of Elizabeth Olbon’s battle to “come to a naked Christ,” which I recount above, ends up damning her: “Elizabeth Olbon is so afraid of her depravity that, unlike the male confessors, she cannot let her inner self melt away. …During her confession, Olbon falls down before the entire congregation, publicly performing Shepard’s deeply personal feelings of impotency and weakness as a public speaker.” The actual passage from Olbon reads: “& yn he preached to him I looke yt is poor & humble & that trembles at my word but she felt so mc evill in her own hart, she thoght it impossible so poore a creat. should be saved or rec: to mercy: & so fell down in discoragmts.” This is actually Olbon saying that she heard the message that Christ came to save the poor and humble, and would therefore offer mercy to the sinner, but Olbon, like so many others of the male and female Cambridge candidates, cannot believe Christ would offer mercy to a sinner such as herself. This made her so discouraged it hampered her spiritual progress (“I fell down in discouragments”), and prevented her from reaching for Christ. Rivett, The Science of the Soul, 113; Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 40.

  63. 63.

    Charles Cohen, God’s Caress, 21. He goes on to say: “Preacher and parishioner entered into a dialogue about faith” and that his book focuses on “emphasizing the mutual importance [of] the ministry’s teaching [and] the laity’s response.”

  64. 64.

    Richard Lawrence seems to echo this advice to his own audience of seekers, asking them to consider “[w]hether thy gifts, graces, and religious endowments have not been more employed by thee in promoting and propagating of disputable points, and doubtful questions, [tending] rather to strife about words, [and] vain janglings [than] to godly edifying.” Richard Lawrence, Gospel Separation separated from its Abuses; or, The Saints guide in Gospel-fellowship (1657), 43.,+Gospel+Separation+separated+from+its+Abuses&source=bl&ots=8KcdaBpluX&sig=ACfU3U0RsNwcOujVGjcgryjX3K4vnnNOeQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiMt-Oe75zoAhXJct8KHTGoD-cQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=Richard%20Lawrence%2C%20Gospel%20Separation%20separated%20from%20its%20Abuses&f=false

  65. 65.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 152; McCarl, “Thomas Shepard’s Record,” 441, 461.

  66. 66.

    “[A]lthough Puritan divines habitually urged female submission and subordination, the daily consequences of Puritan pastoral divinity—intense experiences of divine love or union, reciprocal and almost egalitarian lay-clerical relationships, a sense of spiritual or moral authority, and an almost inevitable civic awareness and immersion in politics—tended to empower women while subtly eroding patriarchal dominance. … Puritanism in its practical effects quietly undermined its own patriarchal assumptions, allowing women a latitude of behavior and a de facto personal authority that they would not have possessed without the psychological and social structures of Puritan life.” David R. Como, “Women, Prophecy, and Authority in Early Stuart Puritanism,” Huntington Library Quarterly 61, no. 2 (1998), 203–4.

  67. 67.

    Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 92. The verses Cutter refers to are Mark 16:6–7: “But he said unto them, Be not so afraid, ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which hath been crucified; he is risen, he is not here; behold the place where they put him. But go your way, and tell his disciples, and Peter, that he will go before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him as he said unto you.”

  68. 68.

    Barbary Cutter’s mother Elizabeth also equates counsel from Shepard and unnamed, possibly female “others”: “Going to servants of the Lord I told them I could not be persuaded one lived so long. Hearing Mr. S[hepard] if I were as Abram.” Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 145.

  69. 69.

    Frances Usher was also approached by “one,” possibly female counselor who “asked me whether I could submit to condemning will of God and I considered of Christ—not my will but thine.” Usher, like Angier, is helped by this unsolicited intervention, to progress in her spiritual preparation to the point at which she is willing to risk all by lying at God’s feet awaiting his judgment. Selement and Woolley, eds., Thomas Shepard’s Confessions, 183.

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Rogers-Stokes, L. (2020). Heroic Souls: Reading the Cambridge Women’s Records. In: Records of Trial from Thomas Shepard’s Church in Cambridge, 1638–1649. Christianities in the Trans-Atlantic World. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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