Encyclopędia Britannica's Guide to Women's History
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Margery Kempe

born c. 1373
died c. 1440

English religious mystic whose autobiography is one of the earliest in English literature.

The daughter of a mayor of Lynn, she married John Kempe in 1393 and bore 14 children before beginning a series of pilgrimages to Jerusalem, Rome, Germany, and Spain in 1414. Her descriptions of her travels and her religious ecstasies, which often included “boystous” crying spells, are narrated in an unaffected prose style that uses such contemporary expressions as “thou wost no more what thou blaberest than Balamis asse.” Apparently illiterate, she dictated her Book of Margery Kempe to two clerks from about 1432 to about 1436. It was first published (modernized) in 1936 and in Middle English in 1940.

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