Early Autobiography Gets a Boost


Margery Kempe, a 15th century mother-of-14 visited by religious visions whose autobiography is considered among the first in the English language, has just gained significant cred. For the first time, historians have been able to verify significant parts of her account, by way of a newly discovered letter apparently written by her son. It has long been assumed that Kempe had little knowledge of writing, and that a cleric aided her in recording her story; the question of whether Kempe should be considered the author or co-author of a nonfiction account—or if the work should be taken purely as fiction—carries significant weight in historical and feminist circles. The letter makes a strong argument that Margery Kempe was in large part responsible for the historic text.

Dinah Fay is a poet, copywriter, and social media maven living in Brooklyn. She is the co-host of the Brick City Speaks reading series in Newark, where she is pursuing an MFA in writing from Rutgers University. More from this author →