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Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe

1373?-1438?

English mystic and autobiographer whose dictated life story, The Book of Margery Kempe, is considered the first autobiography in English. A well-to-do matron who bore 14 children, Kempe started having visions and received the "gift of tears" shortly after her first pregnancy and began a series of pilgrimages that took her across Europe and throughout the Holy Land. Illiterate but opinionated, Kempe did not shy from theological argument and challenged clergy and commoner alike; but she also sought guidance, especially from the anchoress Julian of Norwich. Her disruptive behaviors and defiance of authority resulted in a trial for heresy, but she was found innocent. Following divine inspiration, Kempe dictated her Book as a record of her spiritual life. Idiosyncratic to a fault, the Book is a picaresque travelogue as well as a testament of faith.

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