History ETDs

Publication Date



During the medieval and early modern periods in England, women were not expected to enter into the realm of politics or to comment on religion, and yet many women did find ways of entering into discourse on these topics. For these women the creation of public identities that would protect them from attacks against their characters were necessary to their success in areas of politics and religious commentary. Aristocratic women who wished to enter into politics tended to construct their public identities around their religious piety, using their faith as justification for their actions and also to insulate them from the dangers of meddling in current events. Common women used visions to comment on religion, sometimes with success and sometimes with mixed results; however, when these women strayed into predicting political outcomes they found themselves in trouble. Similarly, women who were unable to create an identity to protect themselves and were problematic for society might be label as witches. Other women found themselves at the center of competing constructed identities, when the persona that they created of themselves was contradicted by identities created by their enemies. This thesis will argue that the female identities constructed by women and men were created around certain concepts like virginity or witchcraft, but also had to be flexible to work in the realms of politics and religious commentary.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Steen, Charlie

Second Committee Member

Ryan, Mike



Document Type