Source: : King's College History Department

Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe was born about 1373 in Norfolk, England. She was the daughter of a respected merchant and public official. She married merchant John Kempe, with whom she had fourteen children. She died sometime after 1433.

In her younger years Margery was respectful to the church, though she knew some clergy were spiritually negligent. When Margery was in her twenties she began to have visions in which she talked to Jesus, Mary, and some saints. In one vision, Jesus told her to go deeper in her religious practices. She was an illiterate laywoman turned religious enthusiast who became prone to fits of crying and screaming during religious services.

At about the age 60, she dictated her spiritual autobiography to two scribes. The Book of Margery Kempe is the earliest known autobiography in English. In her book, Kempe portrays herself as an honest and devote human being. Margery's message is taken from her direct relationship with Jesus that is based on unconditional faith and love. The Book discusses every aspect of Margery's life: from her marriage, religious conversion, and many pilgrimages. She was accused by her contemporaries of fraud and heresy, and often criticized by later scholars as hysterical and crazy. Nonetheless, Margery Kempe also had admirers, even among clergy, who defended her visions as genuine signals from God.