Reinterpreting the Bible Writing on women's issues in the late 16th century began to proliferate, with a number of essays challenging the ideal of the female as "chaste, silent and obedient". In 1589, Jane Anger's Her Protection for Women reinterpreted Genesis.
Rachel Speght's A Muzzle for Melastomus (1617) questioned the story of Adam's fall from the Garden of Eden, taking issue with the underlying assumption that Adam had been seduced by Eve to eat the apple: "If Adam has not approved of that deed which Eve has done, and been willing to tread the steps which she had gone, he being her head would have reproved her."
The gender of authors such as Jane Anger, Rachel Speght, Esther Sowernam and Sarah Egerton remains debatable. Some critics believe them to be pseudonyms used to engage in literary debates rather than political reform. However, there was clearly concern with, and an active desire to challenge, traditional perceptions of women.
Independent Churchwomen Lawrence Stone, writing about the political and socio-economic status of women in 17th-century England, suggests that even as far back as the Civil War of the 1640s, women played an important role in religious interpretation by participating in independent churches where they were allowed to debate, to vote and even prophesy. These women sought to re-invent their roles by claiming a prominent position in society and religion.