Here we are at the first day of LGBT history month and I don’t has a lesbian with a birthday to celebrate with you. How Annoying!
So here’s another remarkable woman whose date of birth I do not know. Katherine Chidley, was married in 1616 an last heard of in 1653, but neither her birth or death date are known. She was a politically radical activist before and during the commonwealth, and had a large following in Bury St Edmunds.
Katherine wrote religious tracts, and said that her husband had no authority to be lord over her conscience. She preached and wrote tracts against Thomas Edwards’, Gangraena (1645), which listed sixteen sects and one hundred and seventy-six miscellaneous “errors, heresies and blasphemies,” and described Katherine herself as “a brasen-faced audacious old woman.”
She was an extremely active Leveller, possibly the author of Leveller women’s petition 23 April 1649 in which she writes that she decided on the course of action
considering that we have an equal share and interest with men in the commonwealth, since they have equal share in the church.
we are assured … also of a proportional share in the freedoms of this commonwealth, we cannot but wonder and grieve that we should appear so despicable in your eyes as to be thought unworthy to petition or represent our grievances to this honourable house. Have we not equal interest with men of this nation, in those liberties and securities contained in the petition of right and other good laws of the land? are any of our lives, limbs, liberties or goods to be taken from us more than from men?… and can you imagine us to be so sottish or stupid as not to perceive, or not to be sensible when dayly those strong defences of our peace and welfare are broken down? Would you have us keep at home in our houses when men … are forced from their houses .. to the affrighting and undoing of themselves, their wives, children and families? are not our husbands our selves, our children, and families by the same rule as lyable to the like unjust cruelties as they? … and must we keep at home in our houses, as if we our lives and liberties and all, were not concerned? … must we show no sence of their sufferings .. nor bear any testimony against so abominable cruelty and injustice? No, … let it be accounted folly, presumption, madness or whatsoever in us, whilst we have life and breath, we will never … cease to importune you … and therefore again, we entreat you to review our last petition FOR WE ARE NOT ONE WHIT SATISFIED WITH THE ANSWER YOU GAVE UNTO OUR HUSBANDS AND FRIENDS, but do equally with them remain lyable to those snares laid in your declaration.
She also petitioned the House of Commons (long parliament) with others, on behalf of John Lilburne, a Leveller accused of High Treason, on 27th July 1653. The petition refused on grounds that they were women and wives. The women retaliated, arguing that they were not all wives, and the government caved in and accepted the petition. Lilburne was acquitted but not released from prison.
The petitioning women were described as
Whole troops of Amazons … marching with confidence to encounter tyrannie, and with abundance of courage exceeding the ordinary sort of women demanding (in) high Tearmes Freedom for their Levelling Brethren.
For more detailed information on Katherine try A trumpet of Sedition.
Katherine is welcome at our party, so long as she doesn’t shout. Actually she probably will shout. That’s ok.