Lead’s Life and Times (Part One): Before Widowhood
Focusing on the period of Lead’s life before she became a widow in 1670, this chapter suggests that Lead was far more radical than has been supposed. Making use of a great many archival discoveries, which form the cornerstone of the painstaking reconstruction presented here, it provides mainly circumstantial but nonetheless cumulatively overwhelming evidence that Lead’s relatively well-known autobiography (printed in German in 1696) conceals almost as much as it reveals. Constructed to reassure its intended audience of continental Spiritualists, Behmenists and Pietists of Lead’s upright character, respectable social status and divinely bestowed gifts this so-called ‘Life of the Author’ adopts a similar strategy to that observable in a number of Philadelphian publications which masked private heterodox beliefs and rituals with public professions of irenic conformity. Accordingly, key names, activities and teachings are omitted from Lead’s German biography because in the political, military and religious contexts of the mid-1690s detailing past associations would have damaged Lead’s reputation among her heterogeneous readership.