Early modern pin-up girls

Lessons learned from the Bible’s “virtuous women”

Presented to the Society for Reformation Studies, Westminster College, Cambridge, 5-7 April 2016. (Abstract slightly amended.) The conference theme was “The Bible in the Reformation”.

Seek a virtuous woman in Coverdale’s 1535 Bible and you will find only Ruth. By 1611, the only “virtuous” people in the English Bible are women.

Representing in part the results of a larger study, this paper explored the shifting patterns of translation (comparing English versions with their counterparts in mainland Europe) and considered the socio-cultural potency of Ruth and her virtuous peers in light of early modern discussion about biblical women and female virtue. This process generates answers to questions about translators’ sources of authority, the practice of translating, and how European writers envisaged the new vernacular versions might be read and used.

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