As in a recent post I’ve spoken about the first woman to ever receive a Doctorate Degree, I thought this time we should stroll even farther on the history line to encounter another remarkable woman.
This time the subject of my ardent lust for discovery is the very daughter of the distinguished Sir Thomas More. One way or another we’ve all heard of this famous English renaissance humanist, or at least of his widely spread book, Utopia. But what fades away shaded by Sir Thomas More’s genius and success is his admirable daughter, Margaret More (Margaret Roper later on), who has undoubtedly inherited her father’s qualities.
Her broad and meticulous education was ensured by her loving father, who most dearly cherished her. He desired his daughter to be able to make her own decisions, to think for herself, unlike the custom of the time in which women were mostly like puppets in men’s hands. Subsequently, she grew into a perspicacious and quick-witted woman who knew what she wanted.
But her greatest accomplishment was publishing a book she herself had translated into English, becoming the first non-royal woman ever to do so. She translated the Latin work ‘Precatio Domenica’ by Erasmus as ‘A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster.’ Assuredly, she shocked everybody with the boldness with which she published a book, for no woman was ever supposed to commit such ‘mischievous crimes‘. What made it even more dreadful to the public eye is that the book was upon religious matters, highly unsuited for a woman to talk about.
However she did not put her name on the title page, but employed the following reference: “By a young virtuous and well learned gentlewoman of nineteen years of age“, and displayed one of her portraits right underneath. Evidently she was investigated for heresy, only she definitely wouldn’t just stand by helplessly and wait to be charged. She indomitably went straight to the highest authority, meaning to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who ended up licencing her book. Thus she sharply escaped being charged for heresy and got her book published.
Notwithstanding Margaret’s luck, her father did not escape the death sentence. Refusing to acknowledge the Act of Succession and the Act of Supremacy imposed by Henry VIII of England, his head was displayed for everybody to see on a pike at London Bridge for a month. After the month had passed, Margaret boldly bribed the man who had to throw the head in the water to give it to her instead. Subsequently she has kept it up until her death in 1544, proving how grateful she was to her father.