Women and Sermons in the Early Modern Anglo-Atlantic World

Jeanne Shami, Anne James, Frank Bremer, & Tricia Peone
Promo graphic for the Women & Sermons event, featuring Edwin Austin Abbey's 1901 illustration of Anne Hutchinson's trial.

12-2 pm EST


This event will held live on Zoom with an interactive Q&A



Women who have stood out in writings about the history of the early modern Atlantic World were often known as dissenters or witches. They are portrayed as rebels against their society rather than contributors to it. As one historian famously put it, well-behaved women seldom make history.

Yet women shaped Protestantism within English and North American churches as much as without. This virtual program brings together leading scholars to reappraise the role women played in the shaping of religion during this time period and highlight some of the great digital resources helping us tell a new history of women’s piety and activity.

Francis Bremer will discuss how puritan women played an important part in shaping the nature of puritanism, with new insights into their roles as teachers and preachers. Jeanne Shami and Anne James will explore the possibilities for learning more about women through use of the Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons (GEMMS). And Tricia Peone will discuss how the Congregational Library's New England’s Hidden Histories collection can further the study of women in early New England.

The program is co-sponsored with the Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons (GEMMS) and will include ample time for discussion with the speakers.

The event is free to all, but registration is required via this link: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1aq7tIyMRwO4w3N_YZezxQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

For more information, please email info@14beacon.org.


Jeanne Shami is Professor Emeritus at the University of Regina where she taught for 35 years. Her interest in sermons, particularly the sermons of John Donne, spans over four decades. In 1992, she identified a hitherto unknown manuscript of Donne’s 1622 Gunpowder sermon, corrected in his hand, at the British Library. Although she has published most extensively on Donne’s place in early Stuart religious culture, she has also written on women as preachers, patrons, and transmitters of sermons, on building a community of sermons scholars, and more generally on the place of the sermon in early modern religious and political culture. She co-edited The Oxford Handbook of John Donne, was Commentary Editor for the Verse Letters of the Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne, and is currently serving as contributing editor to the Oxford Donne Letters. Her current research (GEMMS: Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons) is a SSHRC-funded bibliographic database of manuscript sermons and sermon notes, a collaborative project with co- Contributors 279 investigators Anne James and Brent Nelson and an international research team. GEMMS is Jeanne’s ticket to the world’s manuscript sermon archives.

Anne James is an adjunct professor in the English Department at the University of Regina. She is a principal investigator on the GEMMS (Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons) project, a commentary editor on the John Donne Prose Letters project, and the author of Poets, Players, and Preachers: Remembering the Gunpowder Plot in Seventeenth-Century England (2016).

Francis J. Bremer is Professor Emeritus of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania and a former member of the Congregational Library & Archives Board.  He has authored and edited eighteen books on puritanism in the Atlantic world, including the prize-winning John Winthrop: America's Forgotten Founding Father (2003). Recent works are Lay Empowerment and the Development of Puritanism (2015) and One Small Candle: The Story of the Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England (2020). He is working on a study of women in the shaping of puritanism.

Tricia Peone is the project director of New England’s Hidden Histories at the Congregational Library & Archives. She holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of New Hampshire with a specialization in the early modern Atlantic world and the history of science. Prior to joining the CLA, she was a research scholar at Historic New England for the Recovering New England’s Voices project. Dr. Peone’s scholarship focuses on early modern magic and witchcraft and her work on these subjects has appeared in journals, books, blogs, and on radio and television.

Nancy Taylor is the senior minister emeritus at Old South Church in Boston where she served from 2005-2022. She holds degrees from Yale Divinity School (M.Div.) and Chicago Theological Seminary (D.Min. in preaching). Apropos of this panel, she has been preaching for over 40 years and deeply believes that the sermon, a singular and peculiar genre, can be a powerfully persuasive and formative undertaking, both for the preacher and the congregation.