Joanna Southcott

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Joanna Southcott

Joanna Southcott (also Southcote ) (born April 25, 1750 in Gittisham , Devon , † December 27, 1814 in London ) was an English enthusiast who attracted public attention in London for some time.


Her parents were William and Hannah Southcott.

Most of her life followed the conventions of her time. She was a devout housewife and worked as a housekeeper for wealthy families in the region. During those first 40 years, a charismatic priest appeared to have had some influence over them. Around 1792 she began making prophecies about the future, mostly about the weather and the French Revolution . Some of them came true. In 1801 she pretended to be the "sun woman" mentioned in the Revelation of John (12.1 LUT ) and also operated a profitable trade in seals, which should have the power to bestow eternal bliss. For 1814 she prophesied the end of the world. In 1814, over 60 years old, she claimed to be pregnant with Shiloh , the true Messiah . At this point in time a large number of supporters, including the wealthy classes, had gathered around them. Their donations enabled her to make a good living. Thousands of people believed that the pretended pregnancy was not shaken by all followers ( New Israelites , Sabbatians ) when she died without even having been pregnant.

She outlived her cult , around 100,000 to 140,000 people, by a few decades. Believing that Joanna would be reborn in 1874, her followers awaited her reincarnation as well as the announced birth of the Messiah. In 1817 there was a riot in London when thousands of their supporters in white robes ran through the streets shouting religious slogans. By 1900 the cult was considered to be extinct.

Works (selection)

  • Joanna Southcott: A dispute between the woman and the powers of darkness ; 1802; Facsimile: New York, Woodstock: Poole, 1995; ISBN 1854771949


  • Richard Reece: A letter from Joanna Southcott to Dr. Richard Reece containing a circumstantial exposure of her present situation, as given by nine medical gentlemen…, six of whom have pronounced her pregnant with her permission to Dr. Reece, in case of her death before the birth of the child, to open her body, to find out the cause which has produced such singular effects in a woman of her age ; London 1814.
  • Richard Reece: A Complete Refutation of the statements and remarks published by Dr. Reece relative to Mrs. Southcott… By an impartial observer ; London 1815.
  • Richard Reece: A correct statement of the circumstances that attended the last illness and death of Mrs. Southcott with an account of the appearances exhibited on dissection and the artifices that were employed to deceive her medical attendants ; London 1815.

Literature (selection)

  • Library of Biography. Remarkable Women of different Nations and Ages. First series ; Boston; John P. Jewett and Co., 1858
  • Richard Pearse Chope: Life of Joanna Southcott. Bibliography of Joanna Southcott by Charles Lane, communicated by R. Pearse Chope read at Exeter, July 25th, 1912 ; Reprint of the Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art ; 1912.
  • The trial of Joanna Southcott during seven days, which commenced on the fifth, and ended on the eleventh of December, 1804 at the Neckinger House, Bermondsey, London ; Plymouth: Yes. H. Keys, 1916.
  • Rachel J. Fox: The truth about Joanna Southcott (prophetess), the great box of sealed writings, together with a challenge to the bishops to support her writings, by a Member of the Church of England ; Bedford: Swann & Cave, 1921.
  • Rachel J. Fox: The sufferings and acts of Shiloh-Jerusalem, a sequel to "The finding of Shiloh" ; London: Cecil Palmer, 1927.
  • Ronald Matthews: English Messiahs ; London: Methuen, 1936.
  • George Reginald Balleine: Past finding out, the tragic story of Joanna Southcott and her successors ; London: SPCK, 1956.
  • Eugene Patrick Wright: A catalog of the Joanna Southcott collection at the University of Texas ; Austin: University of Texas, 1968.
  • Emma Grayson: Had they had knowledge ; New Plymouth, NZ 1974.
  • Report on the papers of J. Southcott, 1750-1814, religious fanatic, and of her followers, 1801-1896 ; London: Middlesex Record Office 1040, 1975.
  • John Duncan Martin Derrett : Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, his association with Joanna Southcott ; Poona (India): BOR Institute, 1979.
  • James K. Hopkins: A woman to deliver her people. Joanna Southcott and English millenarianism in an era of revolution ; Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981; ISBN 0-292-79017-1 .
  • John Duncan Martin: Prophecy in the Cotswolds 1803-1947. Joanna Southcott and Spiritual Reform ; Shipston-on-Stour: PI Drinkwater on behalf of the Blockley Antiquarian Society, 1994.
  • Val Lewis: Satan's mistress, the extraordinary story of the 18th century fanatic Joanna Southcott and her lifelong battle with the Devil ; Shepperton: Nauticalia, 1997; ISBN 0-9530458-0-3 .
  • Susan Juster: Mystical pregnancy and holy bleeding, visionary experience in early modern Britain and America ; in: The William and Mary Quarterly . Third Series , Volume 57, Issue 2, 2000.
  • Frances Brown: Joanna Southcott, the woman clothed with the sun ; Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2002; ISBN 0-7188-3018-0 .
  • Frances Brown: Joanna Southcott's box of sealed prophecies ; Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press, 2003; ISBN 0-7188-3041-5 .
  • GH Wilson, Wonderful characters , 1830
  • J. A: Gorton, A general biographical dictionary , 1841
  • S. Baring-Gould, Devonshire characters and strange events , 1908
  • J. Todd, Dictionary of British Women Writers , 1989
  • J. Shattock, The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers , 1993

Web links

Commons : Joanna Southcott  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See Fairburn: The life of JS ; London 1814