Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers

Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers, English missionaries from the Society of Friends (colloquially called Quakers), were gaoled by the Roman Inquisition on Malta from 1558-1662/3. Like many of the early modern people I come across in my research, no images survive of these women, so I must look elsewhere for traces of their hotness. Let’s start with gender.

For those not familiar with the Society of Friends, one of its primary tenets is equality–between the sexes, between races–and this was the case even in the seventeenth century. While many Christians had long subscribed to the notion that all Christians were equal at a soul level, the Friends considered this true in the earthly realm as well. Although some English women in radical dissenting (non-Anglican) Protestant sects took to preaching in the seventeenth century, to leave England without the company of one’s father, husband or other male guardian was in itself a radical act. To do so with the express intention of missionising for one of the most radical sects of the day was nothing short of brazen. Evans and Cheevers, neither spinsters, nor widows (the two groups of non-elite women with the most social flexibility) left their husbands at home to care for their children while they went abroad to spread their message, thereby inverting the gender norms of the period that generally tasked women with domestic management. Moreover, contemporaries also considered religious direction of the family/household the purview of the husband and/or father, so these women (and their spouses) were really pushing the envelope on multiple levels and in various ways.

Several accounts that claim to document Cheevers and Evans’s time as prisoners of the Roman Inquisition survive today, and they make very interesting reading. While Cheevers, Evans and their Quaker supporters were by no means without their own prejudices (virulent anti-Catholicism pervades these relations), their unwavering commitment to their radical religious beliefs is powerful. Indeed, their interrogations by the inquisitors, who constantly try in vain to get them to recant their beliefs, read like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. For subverting, inverting and outright challenging contemporary social norms and religious authority, Cheevers and Evans are historical hotties.


For those unfamiliar with early modern print sources, enjoy these long and phonetically-spelled titles!

Evans, Katharine. A brief discovery of God’s eternal truth and a way opened to the simple hearted whereby they may come to know Christ and his ministers, from Antichrist and his ministers: with a warning from the Lord to all people that do name the name of Christ, to depart from iniquity / written in the Inquisition of Malta. London, 1663. Early English Books Online.

Evans, Katharine and Sarah Cheevers. This Is a Short Relation of Some of the Cruel Sufferings (for the Truths Sake) of Katharine Evans & Sarah Chevers in the Inquisition of the Isle of Malta Who Have Suffered There above Three Years by the Pope’s Authority, There to Be Deteined until They Dye: Which Relation of Their Sufferings Is Come Form Their Own Hands and Mouths as Doth Appear in the Following Treatise… Edited by D. B. London, 1662. Early English Books Online.

———. A True Account of the Great Tryals and Cruel Sufferings Undergone by Those Two Faithful Servants of God, Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers in the Time of Their above Three Years and a Halfs Confinement in the Island Malta. Also, How God at Last by His Almighty Power Effected Their Deliverance, and Brought Them Back into the Land of Their Nativity. To Which Is Added, a Short Relation from George Robinson, of the Sufferings That Befel Him in His Journey to Jerusalem; and How God Saved Him from the Hands of Cruelty When the Sentence of Death Was Passed against Him. Edited by D. B. London, 1663. Early English Books Online.

Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers

One thought on “Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers

  1. Just been to the Inquisitor’s Palace in Malta on a pilgrimage. The courage and conviction of these women was and remains astonishing, seeing their tiny windowless cell was humbling. During their imprisonment Mary Dyer was martyred in Boston. Those Quaker women!

    Liked by 1 person

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