Silenced Voices

Silenced Voices

An article for The Times Literary Supplement.

Most of the women who have ever lived left no trace of their existence on the record of history. In sixteenth-century Europe, it is likely that no more than 5 per cent of women – at most – were literate; ordinary women left no letters, diaries, or notebooks in which they expressed what they felt or thought. For us, their voices are silent.

From the mid-1530s, and especially from the 1550s, ordinary women and men in France started converting, in ever increasing numbers, to Calvinism. The Calvinists rejected the authority of the Pope, abhorred the Catholic Mass, and deplored what they saw as the corruption, hypocrisy, and idolatry of the Roman Church. Their Catholic enemies mocked them with the name “Huguenots”.

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