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Forgotten Women: the Influential Early Female Writers You Need to Know About

In my best-selling book, The Hidden Camino, I describe my discoveries of the many women whose pictures decorated the walls in the Catholic churches along the Camino. These women were depicted as scholars, writers and leaders in their own right.

Trying to detect more early women writers in (main European) history, I found this extensive list from who generously has given me persmission to share the list here.

This list is not complete, but does present us with many names throughout a historical timeline. It is a myth that until recently all the writers and preachers were men! Throughout history there have been many important and influential women leaving increaible legacies behind them.

I have blogged about some of these women and I have added them as 'related blogs' at the end of this article. Anyway, here's the amazing list from

Christian Women in the Early Church

Blandina ?-177 AD She was a famous martyr in what is now France

Perpetua and Felicitas 203 AD

Faltonia Betitia Proba 4th Century AD. A poet.

Fabiola 4th Century AD was a wealthy woman who gave up everything to nurse the poor

Angela de Foligho & Marie Corelli (public domain.) St. Anne in Carcassonne, France © Louise Sommer.

Christian Women in the Middle Ages

Brigid c. 450-525 founded the first women's religious community in Ireland

Clotilde 475-545 - married Clovis, the king of the Franks who ruled northern France. She was instrumental in converting her husband to Christianity.

Berta or Bertha 539-612. Berta was from France and married to the king of Kent. It was partly due to her influence that Kent was converted to Christianity.

Hilda of Whitby 614-680. Hilda was an influential woman in the Saxon church who founded several monasteries. In 664 she hosted the Synod of Whitby. (At that time there were two kinds of Christianity, Roman in most of Europe and Celtic in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The Synod (meeting) of Whitby was held to decide which side the kingdom of Northumbria (northern England) should join. (Hilda much preferred Celtic Christianity but the Synod decided on Rome).

Kassia 810-867 was a Greek poet and hymn writer

Hildegard 1088-1179 was a German theologian, visionary, Abbess and writer of books, plays, music and spiritual poems and visions. She also wrote about natural history and the medicinal use of plants.

Heloise 1101-1164 was a French Abbess and she was widely respected for her learning.

The Waldensians 1175 onwards. The Waldensians were a Christian movement that began in southern France and spread across central Europe and Italy in the 13th century. Many Waldensian preachers were women.

Clare of Assisi 1194-1253

Julian of Norwich 1342-1416 was a famous mystic and writer. She wrote about the Motherhood of God.

Margery Kempe 1373-1439 was an English mystic. The story of her life, The Book of Margery Kempe, became a famous book.

The Lollards c. 1380 onwards. The Lollards were a Christian movement in England from the late 14th century to the early 16th century when they merged with the Protestants. Many Lollard preachers were women.

Christian Women in the 16th Century

Anne Askew 1521-1546

Katharine Zell 1497-1562 - Neither Luther or Calvin believed in women preachers. However, Katharine was an influential Protestant in Germany. She visited the sick and prisoners and sheltered Protestant refugees. She also wrote letters, which were circulated among Protestants.

Christian Women in the 17th Century

In the 17th century the Baptists and the Quakers had many women preachers. However in the late 17th century the Baptists became more conservative and began to disfavour women preachers.

Anne Hutchinson 1591-1643 was a preacher in 17th century Massachusetts

Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672

Anne Bradstreet was a poet of the 17th Century.

Margaret Fell 1614-1706 co-founded the Quakers with George Fox. One of the books she wrote was called Women's Speaking Justified, Proved and Knowed of the Scriptures.

Christian Women in the 18th Century

In the 18th century when the Methodist movement was born many Methodist leaders were women. John Wesley supported them but after his death in 1791 the Methodists began to disfavour women leaders. In the USA there was a movement called the Separate Baptists, which allowed women preachers.

Anne Dutton 1692-1765 Anne was a theologian

Selina, Countess of Huntingdon 1707-1791 Selina was a key figure in the Methodist Movement of the 18th Century.

Sarah Osborn 1714-1796 was a Christian leader and writer

Sarah Crosby 1729-1804 was a famous Methodist preacher

Ann Lee 1736-1784 was a Quaker missionary

Hannah More 1745-1833 was a famous writer and philanthropist.

Phyllis Wheatley 1753-1784 was a poet

Hannah Adams 1755-1831 was a famous Christian writer.

Elizabeth Ann Seton 1774-1821 was a Christian writer

Ann Judson 1789-1826 was a missionary to Burma

Christian Women in the 19th Century

Some people think that Victorian women just stayed at home all day. In reality women were evangelists, preachers, writers and missionaries. They also organised charities.

Phoebe Palmer 1807-1874 was a famous evangelist and writer

Fanny Crosby 1820-1915 (Frances) was a famous hymn writer of the 19th century

Antoinette Brown 1825-1921. In 1853 Antoinette became the first ordained Congregationalist woman minister

Catherine Booth 1829-1890 was a preacher. She married William Booth in 1855. (At first William disagreed with the idea of women preachers but he changed his mind after hearing Catherine preach!). Catherine and William founded the Salvation Army in 1865.

Hannah Whitall Smith 1832-1911 was a writer and evangelist

Lottie Moon 1840-1912 was a missionary to China

Maria Woodworth-Etter 1844-1924 was a famous evangelist

Mary Slessor 1848-1915 was a missionary to Africa

Christian Women in the 20th Century

Evangeline Booth 1865-1950. From 1904 Evangeline was leader of the Salvation Army in the USA. From 1934-39 she was Commander in Chief of the Salvation Army worldwide.

Ida Scudder 1870-1960 was a medical missionary

Evely Brand 1879-1974 was a missionary to India

Gladys Aylward 1903-1970 was a missionary to China

Patricia St John 1919-1993 was a Christian writer

Esther John 1929-1960 was a Pakistani Christian nurse and martyr

Eva Burrows 1930- was an Australian evangelist

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