Biography

  • Rachel Speght, born sometime in 1597 to a bourgeois London household, but her death is unknown, which is probably based on the fact that little information about her life has been researched and recorded.
  • Nothing known about Rachel Speght's mother except that she died shortly after Rachel published her polemic in 1617 because Rachel describes her death in "The Dreame," prefixed to Mortalities Memorandum. Also, less than one month after the dream vision was entered in the Stationers' Register, her father married Elizabeth Smith.
  • Her father’s name was James Speght. He was a Calvinist rector of two churches in London, St. Mary Magdalene in Milkstreet, (1592 -1637) and St. Clement in Eastcheap (1611 to 1637). He also graduated doctor of divinity from Christ's College, Cambridge, and was ordained in May 1591. He died early in May 1637.
  • Another importance influence in Speght’s life is her godmother Mary Moundford who was the wife of the eminent physician, Thomas Moundford because Speght dedicated Mortalities Memorandum to her godmother.
  • Rachel Speght was a pamphleteer, poet, and an important voice in the gender polemics of the early 17th century.
  • She was the also “the first self-proclaimed and positively identified female polemicist in England” (61).
  • Whether Rachel Speght had a formal education is not known, but she was certaintly educated because her works demonstrate familiarity not only with the Bible, but also with Latin and a host of classical and contemporary philosophers and poets. She was also well connected socially.
  • Also, Speght displayed that she had some training in logic and rhetoric because of her writing style although training and rhetoric during the Renaissance usually meant learning various stylistic schemes and tropes and it was a subject usually reserved for men.
  • Rachel Speght married William Procter, a 29 year old clerk, on Aug 2, 1621 at the age of 24 at St. Mary Woolchurch instead of at her father’s church, but according to a biographical note in Kissing the Rod (1988), the wedding did have her father’s consent. The couple christened a daughter, Rachel, in February 1626 and a son, William, in December 1630.

rachel_book.jpg

Bibliography


Rachel Speght only published two works in her lifetime, at age 19, a Mouzell for Melastomus (London, 1617) and at age 24, Mortalities Memorandum.
  • The first one was a prose refutation of Joesph Swetnam’s misogynistic The Araignment of Lewde, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women (London, 1615), in which knowledge of rhetoric in particular serves her very well in refuting his argument.

  1. She was the first of many authors to respond in print to Joseph Swetnam's Arraignment of Lewd, idle, froward and unconstant women (1615).
  2. One of the first semireligious texts published by a woman in English.

  • The second one was a volume of two poems that urge and offer a Christian meditation on death and defend the education of women.
  1. The poem is 1,056 lines of iambic pentameter, 300 lines of which constitute "The Dreame"; the rhyme scheme of the six-line stanzas is abcbdd.
  2. Although no extensive study has yet been published of either Mortalities Memorandum or "The Dreame," the latter has attracted more modern critical attention than the former because of its protofeminist arguments.
  3. Compared to Christine de Pizan's Booke of the Cyte of Ladyes (1521), all of the allegorical virtues are female, and there is a strong emphasis throughout on the importance of education for women.

Both poems were published under her own name and they were the only poems that included her name at all because other pamphlets written under the Swetnam controversy or other works written by women during her time period were published pseudonymously.


Brown, Meg Lota. "Rachel Speght." Seventeenth-Century British Nondramatic Poets: Second Series. Ed. M. Thomas Hester. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.
Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 126. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 7 Mar. 2011.

" Rachel Speght ." Language Translation | Translate Free Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2011.

"From A Mouzzel for Melastomus, the Cynicall Bayter of, and foul mouthed Barker against Evahs Sex. Or an Apologeticall Answere to that Irreligious and Illiterate Pamphlet made by Io.Sw. and by him Intituled The Arraignment of Women.”


“In her polemic A Mouzell for Melastomus (a “muzzle” for a “black mouth”), Speght denounces Joseph Swetnam’s Arraignment of Women, a collection of ribald jokes, bawdy ballads, proverbs, and lore pertaining to women’s lechery, vanity, shrewishness, and inconstancy” (61).The reading is set up in two parts.
  1. A defense of women and is directed to fellow women based mainly on biblical authority and biblical commentaries.
  2. Directed to Joseph Swetnam as a refutation of his charges against women by showing the “faulty logic underlying misogyny in general” (61).
Speght’s letters show “a remarkable grasp of classical rhetoric, literature, philosophy, and Protestant theology” of her time (61).

  • Counters Swetnam’s argument by using the same evidence he presents, but adding her own twists to them by using logic.
  • Her position on the subject matter of women are bad creatures and should come second to man on the basics of biblical excerpts are to defend women against the misogyny theory of what Swetnam and other men thought about women at the time.

  • When talking to her audience, she states that if Swetnam’s “unjust imputations should continue without answere, he might insult and account himself a victor,” which during the seventeenth century would have added more flame in the misogyny theory. (hatred or strong prejudice against women)

  • Speght also tries to relate to her audience by even apologizing for being a woman and being young in an effort to not come off as she is better than others.
  • In Speght’s direct attack against Swetnam, using logic and the bible, she tells Swetnam that because of what he is saying, “He is a fit scribe for the devell” (64).

  • For instance, interesting quotes in her letters that I thought made her rhetoric style and argument stronger were when Speght wrote:
  1. “Many propositions have you framed, (which as you thinke) make much against Women, but if one would make a Logicall assumption, the conclusion would be flat against your own sex (64). (I thought this was extremely powerful because she was saying that if you are obviously saying this about our gender, then you must really be referring to your own gender.)
  2. Another important quotes in her letter is “Your dealing wants so much discretion, that I doubt whether to bestow so good a name as the Dunce upon you: but Minority bids me keepe within my bounds; and therefore I onlie say unto you that your corrupt Hear and railing Tongue, hath made you a fit scribe for the devell” (64).(This quote is important because it shows that Speght was conscious of her role in society and what she was allowed to say and do, but at the same time she used this as a device to make her argument stronger by writing this response and using techniques that showed how she was different from the way Swetnam classified women.)

Overall Speght’s metaphors, similes, and language throughout her work made her argument against Swetnam really strong.


Speght, Rachel. “From A Mouzzel for Melastomus, the Cynicall Bayter of, and foul mouthed Barker against Evahs Sex. Or an Apologeticall Answere to
that Irreligious and Illiterate Pamphlet made by Io.Sw. and by him Intituled The Arraignment of Women.” Ed. Joy S, Ritchie & Kate Ronald.
Available Means: An Anthology of Women's Rhetoric(s). Pittsburgh: UP, 2001. 61-65. Print.

"A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght's A Mouzell for Melastomus"


In this article, it discusses from the viewpoint of an anoyounmus male, how screwed men's mindsets were about women by using the bible to justify why women should be consided not equal to men. For instance, the three main points within it were that women's only job should be to look for a candiate in marriage, come second to men, and not one female could be considered good.
  1. It used biblical allusions such as, Eve went into the first first and then dragged Adam with her, thus proving that women should not be trusted.
  2. It also said that Speght herself was illogical because she wished bad on men's gender, but then turned around to bid him farewell.
  3. In other words, the article tried to use logic or seventeenth century logic in order to tear Speght's arguments down as she had tore Swetnam's down.

My take on this article was that the annotator was just outraged that she was the first woman that was calling men out on their misogynous theory.


Heertum, Cis van. "A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght's A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617)." English Studies 68.6 (Dec. 1987): 490-496. Rpt.
in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 97. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature
Resources from Gale. Web. 10 Mar. 2011.

Website Evaluation

http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Rachel_Speght
  • Accuracy: The website seems pretty accurate according to Gale resources and other websites that list information about Rachel Speght.
  • Authority: The domain is not typically preferred because it is a .com website and also because anyone can update or add information to the website. Also, there is no clear author stated. However, the information is very accurate.
  • Objectivity: The webpage only had a few advertisements on it, but they do not seem as if they will cause extreme distractions from obtaining the information. The webpage is also very objective and it does not seem to be bias in any sort.
  • Currency: The webpage is very current because its copyright date is 2011 and all the links are up to date.
  • Coverage: The webpage contained very brief information on Rachel’s Speght life, information about her only two works, and it had links and references if someone needed to find more information on Rachel. The webpage is also free for anyone to visit and it works with any kind of web browser.


Discussion Questions


1).During the Renaissance, it was very uncommon for a woman to be trained in logic and rhetoric, but in the two introductory epistles of Rachel’s A Mouzell for Melastomus, her writing strongly displayed that she was educated in this area. How did this make her argument stronger? Give examples using the two excerpts.

2).Rachel Speght is said to have been the only one out of three responses to Swetnam’s tract to have used her name when refuting his argument instead of a pseudonym. How did her identity or this particular aspect help further her logic about women and refute Swetnam’s attacks against women?

3). In attacking Swetnam, why do think Speght uses biblical allusions to justify why women should be treated equally to men? Also, what is the significance of attacking Swetnam’s rhetorical style and warning men that they may be punished if they speak or write against women?


Works Cited

Brown, Meg Lota. "Rachel Speght." Seventeenth-Century British Nondramatic Poets: Second Series. Ed. M. Thomas Hester. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 126. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 7 Mar. 2011.

Google Image Result for http://i43.tower.com/images/mm100687485/polemics-poems-rachel-speght-barbara-kiefer-lewalski-hardcover-cover-
art.jpg." Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2011.

Heertum, Cis van. "A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght's A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617)." English Studies 68.6 (Dec. 1987): 490-496. Rpt.
in Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 97. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature
Resources from Gale. Web. 10 Mar. 2011.

Marc, Shirley, Center for the Study of Women in Society, and University. "A Mouzell for Melastomus." Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature.
N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2011.

"Mortalities Memorandum."Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2011.

" Rachel Speght ." Language Translation | Translate Free Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2011.

Speght, Rachel. “From A Mouzzel for Melastomus, the Cynicall Bayter of, and foul mouthed Barker against Evahs Sex. Or an Apologeticall Answere to
that Irreligious and Illiterate Pamphlet made by Io.Sw. and by him Intituled The Arraignment of Women.” Ed. Joy S, Ritchie & Kate Ronald.
Available Means: An Anthology of Women's Rhetoric(s). Pittsburgh: UP, 2001. 61-65. Print.