Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England

Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England

Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk, and Lincolnshire's Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580

Melissa Franklin Harkrider


Boydell Press



A study of one of the most influential women of her day has much to reveal about the developments which shaped the English Reformation.
Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk, was one of the highest-ranking noblewomen in sixteenth-century England. She wielded considerable political power in her local community and at court, and her social status and her commitment to religious reform placed her at the centre of the political and religious developments that shaped the English Reformation. By focusing on her kinship and patronage network, this book offers an examination of the development of Protestantism in the governing classes during the period. It begins by looking at the process through which Willoughby and her associates embraced reform, arguing that the spread of Protestantism among the political elite was an intermittent and complex process shaped in part by myriad kinship and patronage relationships: Willoughby and her godly associates played a crucial role in encouraging religious change in Lincolnshire through their patronage of reformers and their support of a variety of domestic, educational, and religious institutions. It also demonstrates the importance of gender in the process of spiritual transformation, and shows how the changing religious climate provided new opportunities for women to exert greater influence in their society.

MELISSA FRANKLIN HARKRIDER is Assistant Professor of History, Wheaton College.

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March 2008
1 black and white, 4 line illustrations
188 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Modern British Religious History
ISBN: 9781843833659
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
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Table of Contents

`As Earnest as any': Catholicism and Reform Among the Willoughby Family and its Affinity in Henrician England
`Tasting the Word of God': Evangelicalism and the Religious Development of Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk
Living Stones and Faithful Masons: Women and the Evangelical Church during the Early English Reformation
`Helping Forwardness': Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk, and Reform during the Reign of Edward VI
`Exiles for Christ': Continuity and Community among the Marian Exiles
`Hot Zeal' and `Godly Charity': Katherine Willoughby, Reform and Community in Elizabethan Lincolnshire


Makes an important contribution to the concerns of both Gender and Reformation Studies with the nature of the reform that occurred in England, as distinguished from the Continental movements, in regard to women's activity in a society which resisted women as active agents of pandemic cultural change. MEDIEVAL FEMINIST FORUM
A good monograph: clear in exposition, abreast of current scholarship, sensitive to the complexities of life as lived as well as to the niceties of religious doctrine. 16th CENTURY JOURNAL
What emerges from the monograph is a complex, sensitive and highly original picture of the duchess amidst her wider networks, made possible by Harkrider's extremely detailed knowledge of an extensive range of sources. [...] Provides much original thought and [...] will deservedly find a wide readership. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW
This well-produced monograph is a model of its kind. Thorough research in an impressively wide range of archives and libraries is applied to address significant questions through a clear and controlled argument. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY
Makes a fine contribution to the increasing wealth of material on women and reform in early modern England. [.] It adds significantly to our understanding of female "godly circles", the protean growth of individual faith, one woman's fashioning of Protestant reform. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY

A monograph in which the research is thorough, the style clear and the argument scrupulously methodical. With her study of Katherine Willoughby, Melissa Franklin Harkrider contributes to the deepening of our understanding of religious change in Tudor times. HISTORY OF WOMEN RELIGIOUS

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