| Sunshine for
WHM 99, ToC | Home
Constantia Munda (Moral Constancy) was the third woman to respond to John Swetnam’s misogynist The Arraignment of Women. While Speght was timid and deferential and Sowernam was witty and logical, Munda is at the same time both combative and learned. In the space of a year, the tenor of English women’s contribution to the debate on the woman question went from non-existent to vitriolic. English men must surely have concluded that women were in full-scale revolt. Never again would English women be silent when men attacked womankind. Considering that the witch trials were still within the memories of living women (indeed, there were still scattered outbreaks of witch trials in England and on the continent and the great colonial American Salem witch trial would not happen for another 75 years), that women would speak up at all is amazing.
Our excerpts from Munda's The Worming of a mad Dog or a Sop for Cerebus the Jailor of Hell: No Consultation but a Sharp Redargution [Reproof] of the bayter of Women are the parts in which Munda refers to Speght's and Sowernam's works. In the dedicatory poem (the work is dedicated to Prudentia Munda - Moral Prudence), Munda refers to Ester Sowernam's Ester Hath Hang'd Haman in explaining why she waited so long to reply to Swetnam's attacks:
"Some trifling minutes I vainly did bestow In penning of these lines that all might know The scandals of our adversary, and I had gone forward had not Ester hanged Haman before. "
Later, in the body of the tract, Munda refers to Rachel Speght's A Mouzell for Melastomus (Muzzle for Evil-Mouth or A Muzzle for Black-Mouth) thus:
Indeed, I write not in hope of reclaiming thee from they profligate absurdities, for I see what a pitch of disgrace and shame thy self-pining envy hath carried thee to for they greater vexation and more perplexed ruin. You see, your black, grinning mouth hath been muzzled by a modest and powerful hand who hath judiciously betrayed and wisely laid open your singular ignorance, couched under incredible impudence; who hath most gravely (to speak in your own language) "unfolded every pleat and showed every wrinkle: of a profane and brutish dispositions, so that 'tis a doubt whether she hath showed more modesty or gravity, more learning or prudence in the religious confutation of your indecent railings. But as she hath been the first Champion of our sex that would encounter with the barbarous bloodhound, and wisely dammed up your mouth and sealed up your jaws lest your venomed teeth like mad dogs should damage the credit of many, nay all innocent damsels; so, no doubt, if your scurrilous and depraving tongue break prison and falls to licking up your vomited poison to the end you may squirt out the same with more pernicious hurt, assure yourself there shall not be wanting store of Hellebore to scour the sink of your tumultuous gorge. As least we will cram you with Antidotes and Catapotions, that if you swell not till you burst, yet your digested poison shall not be contagious. I hear you foam at mouth and growl against the Author with another head like the triple dog of hell, wherefore I have provided this sop for Cerebus, indifferent well steeped in vinegar."
For more information
The Early Modern Englishwoman: A Facsimilie Library of Essential Works, Part 1: Printed Writings, 1500-1640. vol 4: Defenses of Women Jane Anger, Rachel Speght, Ester Sowernam, and Constantia Mundi, Susan Gushee O'Malley editor, Betty S. Travisky and Patrick Cullen series editor, Scolar Press, 1996
Half Humankind: Contexts and Texts of the Controversy about Women in England, 1540 - 1640, Katherine Usher Henderson and Barbara F. McManus, U. of Illinois Press, Chicago, 1985
Return to Women's History Month 1999 Table of Contents
Sunshine for Women encourages you to support our feminist sisters by purchasing their books, reading them, disseminating the ideas they contain, but most especially, by making their book available to our sisters, our daughters, and the community at large by requesting your school library, your public library, and area bookstores to carry their books. Remember it is not enough to write literature, history, and theology, we must pass these works on to future generations. Help us to preserve these works for a new generation by putting them on library bookshelves.
last updated February 1999