Mary Ward: First Sister of Feminism
Almost exactly 400 years ago, an English woman completed an astonishing walk to Rome.
An English Catholic, Mary Ward had already defied the authorities in England. In 1621 she walked across Europe to ask the Pope to allow her to set up schools for girls. ‘There is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things,’ she said.
But Mary’s vision of equality between men and women angered the Catholic Church and the Pope threw her into prison. This is a story just waiting to be told!
The story shines a refreshingly new light on the popular Tudor/Stuart era. Mary’s uncles are the Gunpowder Plotters. Her sponsors are Archdukes, Prince-Archbishops and the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In Rome she spars with Pope Urban VIII and the Roman Inquisition, just as they are also dealing with Galileo.
As the story sweeps from Yorkshire to Rome, from Vienna and Munich to Prague and back to England, we see Mary dodging pirates in the Channel, witch hunts in Germany and the plague in Italy. We see travellers crossing the Alps, and prisoners writing letters in invisible lemon juice to smuggle them past their gaolers. The settings range from the resplendent courts in Brussels and Munich to the siege of York in the English Civil War. The reader is immersed in seventeenth-century life.
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