Rachel Speght – “A Muzzle for Melastomus”(excerpts)

Rachel Speght, a rather impressive 19-year-old wrote a spirited reply to Swetnam’s Arraignment of Women. By all accounts she was a rather precocious and very well educated daughter of a Calvinist minister. She wrote several other femnist texts, and then unfortunately she got married. From then on we have very little information about her life apart from the birth records of her children. We don’t even know when exactly shed died, and we can only assume it was before her husband, because he does not mention her in his will. It’s a telling fact that even women as talented and smart as Speght got almost erased from the pages of history.

Speght identifies Swetnam by name (he published his book under a pseudonym) and lays into him with all her force. You’re an idiot and an ignorant, and I would call you worse, but I restrain myself because of my young age, she writes. But your mind is like a pool of standing water and your book is like a putrid stream when the sluice is opened – who could expect any better of you? You are not even able to write a grammatical sentence, let alone a rational one. But the empty barrel makes the loudest sound and that’s the case with you as well. What is more, you offended God firstly, by misquoting and perverting the sense of his Word; secondly, by blasphemng against his creation, which he made all good. And also by publishing this book you exposed yourself to the whole world, showing how stupid you are.

The next excerpt is Speght showing that she can beat Swetnam at his own game, that is biblical exegesis, and at least, in contrast to him, she quotes her Bible correctly. True, Eve ate of the fruit first. But the Bible says about the moment when Adam and Eve first realize their sin “Their eyes were opened”, so it means the sin was fully accomplished, so to say, only after Adam ate the fruit, too. And as for Eve giving Adam the fruit, she at least meant well. And even God wants to protect her against being rejected by Adam (he didn’t have much of a choice, did he?), immediately after the original sin is committed, he promises Eve that her descendant is going to vanquish Satan. And finally, St Paul (nor a particularly women-friendly writer) states that “male and female are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

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