“Some Improvement to their Spiritual and Eternal State”: Women’s Prayers in the Seventeenth-Century Church of England
Like many seventeenth-century Englishwomen, Dorothy, Lady Pakington, often wrote down prayers for her own use, and to share with others. Prayer, especially common/public/shared prayer, was increasingly privileged in the Church of England during the first half of the seventeenth century. This is an important context when considering prayers composed by women in Stuart England. The composition of written prayers was by no means limited to women like Pakington, an ardent royalist and devoted supporter of the Church of England. However, the esteem for written and shared prayers within conformist circles, among adherents of what Judith Maltby has called “Prayer Book Protestantism,”1 gave women such as Pakington an important, quasi-public means of participation, expression, and influence in the established church. Moreover, through written prayers, in particular those that did not circulate except in manuscript, a woman like Pakington could even address areas, such as political events, that were not normally considered appropriate for a woman.