ANNE WENTWORTH (1629/30-1693?)
Anne Wentworth was born c. 1629 or 1630 to a Lincolnshire family. She married William Wentworth of London in either 1652 or 1653 and gave birth to a daughter in the late 1660s. After eighteen years in an unhappy marriage, Wentworth had a visit from God around 1670, restoring her faith and propelling her to spend the next seven years writing and perfecting her prophesying. She published her first work, A True Account of Anne Wentworth’s Being Cruelly, Unjustly, and Unchristianly Dealt with by Some of Those People Called Anabaptists, in 1676 (generally known as A True Account of Anne Wentworth). In her first piece, Wentworth reflects upon and addresses her husband’s patriarchal authority and domination, viewing it as a punishment from God. Though it took Wentworth seven years to publish her first work, she did not go unrecognized as a prophetess. Fellow Anabaptists (now Baptists) and other friends and acquaintances, including her husband, started to persecute Wentworth during the time she was expressing her prophetic voice. Because of the backlash she received from her own congregation, Wentworth left the church in 1675. It is unclear whether Wentworth was excommunicated after writing critiques on the church or whether she left on her free will. It is clear, however, that the abuse from both her husband, who sometimes used physical force, and other Baptists increased to the point that she could no longer remain a part of that local church.
In 1677 another autobiographical work appeared, A Vindication of Anne Wentworth, narrating her experiences of persecution in an attempt to justify her prophetic voice as truly authentic. In this work Wentworth predicted that the coming Apocalypse would occur before New Year’s Day, 1678. She even sent letters to both King Charles II and the Lord Mayor of London warning them of the Apocalypse. Her actions angered her husband to the point that he enlisted the help of three family members to remove his wife from their home in the summer of 1677. When the prophecy failed, Wentworth lost much of her popularity. Nevertheless, she continued to write, publishing in short order England’s Spiritual Pill and The Revelation of Jesus Christ (1679), a narrative of her experience in being called to prophesy by Christ. That same year Wentworth returned home to her husband and family. After the publication of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Wentworth’s pen fell silent. She may be the Anne Wentworth of St. John’s Court who was buried at St. James’s Church in Clerkenwell on May 22, 1693. Wentworth’s publications allowed her a public voice within London’s dissenting community that most women never enjoyed or exercised. She fearlessly addressed those who opposed and persecuted her, even from within her own household. Despite this adversity, Wentworth managed to publish a number of works that provoked religious discussion and opinions and left a mark for herself as a prominent voice among England’s prophetesses in the mid- to late seventeenth century.
For more on Wentworth, see Curtis Freeman, A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2011); Rachel Adcock, Baptist Women’s Writings in Revolutionary Culture, 1640-1680 (Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2015); W. Johnston, “Prophecy, Patriarchy, and Violence in the Early Modern Household: The Revelations of Anne Wentworth,” Journal of Family History 34 (2009), 344-68; Vickie Taft, “Anne Wentworth's Life and Works,” Emory Women Writers Resource Project, Emory University (online resource).
For the text of Wentworth's True Account (1676), available now on this website, click here.
1. Wentworth, Anne. A Vindication of Anne Wentworth: Tending to the Better Preparing of All People for Her Larger Testimony, Which Is Making Ready for Publick View. Published According to the Will of God, and Direction of Charity. by Anne Wentworth. to Which Is Annexed a Letter Written by an Eminent Christian, Concerning the Said Anne Wentworth, and Directed to the Several Congregations of the Anabaptists, and Their Respective Pastors. As Also a Song of Tryumph by the Said Anne Wentworth, a Daughter of Sion, Newly Delivered from the Captivity of Babylon, &c. London, 1677.
After being banished (or after leaving) her church and being kicked out (or choosing to leave) her home and her husband, Wentworth knew that many of the people who once supported her or believed her word would fault in their loyalty. This particular work is Wentworth’s way of vindicating herself and her position through her relationship with God. Wentworth claims that Christ is her only true husband and the only one who will truly provide for her. Wentworth notes in the work that while she may be suffering, she is not the only one of God’s children to suffer. Though she is treated, by her church, similarly to that of Turks and Heathens, God has not abandoned her and is still acting through her. She encourages readers to know that she is not forsaken, and that her claims to be a messenger of God are true. Though she may be in a state of suffering, her faith is unwavering because God is always with her, speaking through her to deliver His messages to His people. Wentworth utilizes the images of other people who have suffered in the Bible and that, no matter how bad things got, they were still one with God, and God was with them. Wentworth’s point for doing this is to validate that her claims to be messenger of God are and always will be true, not matter how adverse the situation.
2. Wentworth, Anne. A True Account of Anne Wentworths Being Cruelly, Unjustly, and Unchristianly Dealt with by Some of Those People Called Anabaptists, of the Particular Opinion, and All the Cause She Gave, and What She Hath Done: Who Would Never Appear in Publick, but Forced to Declare the Tender Mercies of God, and Cruelty of Man ; That Will Not Hear Truth If It Were to Save Her Life or Soul, Having Tendred by All Just and Legal Ways, but They Reject and Refuse to Hear Her, When so Weak As a Dying Woman. Also Her Discovering the Two Spirits Which Are in the World, and Her Giving Warning of What E're Long Will Surely and Suddenly Come to Pass. London, 1676.
In a sense, this work is sort of Wentworth’s memoir. Wentworth speaks to the reader about how she came to be in service of the Lord. Wentworth recalls the fact that once she was her husband’s wife in all body, mind, and soul. However, the unhappiness that Wentworth experienced on a daily basis for almost 18 years turned her from her husband and fully into the light of the Lord. Wentworth makes note that all the while during her times of hardship she did believe in the Lord, but had not fully opened herself up to him. The moment that Wentworth decided to lay herself at the Lord’s feet and fully accept him as her life, then God began to speak to her, telling her to write down the words He spoke. Wentworth goes on to explain that all of her work is in the name of Christ and God, and that none of it is for personal gain whatsoever. Wentworth also gives a message to those who are struggling, and may be looking for a relationship with God similar to hers. She encourages her readers that it is not the material things that matter in life. Instead, if one lives as a poor, hungry, almost empty person not searching for worldly gratification, then God will provide for them in ways that fulfill all of their needs. This, Wentworth states, is the way that God came to her, choosing her to be the one that delivers His messages through writing.
3. Wentworth, Anne. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Just As He Spake It in Verses at Several Times, and Sometimes in Prose, Unto His Faithful Servant Anne Wentworth, Who Suffereth for His Name. 1679.
This particular work was published in the same year that Wentworth returned home to her husband after being banished from her house. Though the work was published in this year, Wentworth starting writing her revelations in 1677. The revelations allude to the banishment from her house, the condemnation she received from her church, and the different views the general public held of her. However, Wentworth prefaced most of the revelations with what Christ said to her and/or what she was commanded to write. Wentworth addresses the readers, letting them know that Christ told her that she will be faced with disapproval, even be called a wicked, blasphemous woman. Despite the negativity that Wentworth knew (through Christ) that she would be subjected to, she also states that she knew that she would be provided for. She discusses the fact that she was confident that Christ would provide for her despite losing her home, going on to say that Christ informed her that she would be able to return back to her house. With Christ on her side, Anne embodies the role of messenger and continues to address the public, highlighting their misdeeds, informing them that God and Christ are aware of them turning away from faith, and even continues to give warnings of dangers that the world may face.
4. Wentworth, Anne. Englands Spiritual Pill, Which Will Purge, Cure, or Kill: Declaring the Great ... Things Which the ... Most High God Jesus Christ ... Hath Revealed Unto Anne Wentworth Concerning a Thorough-Reformation of Church-Worship. 1679.
This page was assisted by Kelsi Cunningham, Georgia Southern University