The stories of so-called ‘miracle maidens’ or ‘miraculous maidens’, were a lively subgenre of popular pamphlets in northern Europe in the early modern period.1 A

1 Appendix III contains a table of texts about miracle maidens published in England during the early modern period. This chapter focuses primarily on the following few. The story of Katerin Cooper, a Dutch woman, was translated into English in 1589 in A notable and prodigious Historie of a Mayden, who for sundry yeeres neither eateth, drinketh, nor sleepeth, neyther auoydeth any excrements, and yet liueth. The story of another Dutch girl, Veitken Johans, was printed in Alexander Gurth’s Most Trve and More Admirable newes, Expressing the Miracvlous preseruation of a young Maiden of the towne of Glabbich in the Dukedome of Gulische, 1597. The story of Jane Balan, a French woman, written by François Citois and translated by Anthony Munday, was published in 1603 as A True and admirable Historie, of a Mayden of Confolens, in the Prouince of Poictiers: that for the space of three yeeres and more hath liued, and yet doth, vvithout receiuing either meate and drinke. The story of Eve Fliegen took several printed forms: part of a pamphlet entitled The Protestants and Iesuites vp in Armes in Gulicke-land. Also, a true and wonderfull relation of a Dutch maiden (called Eue Fliegen of Meurs in the County of Meurs) who being now (this present yeare) 36 yeares of age, hath fasted for the space of 14 yeares, issued twice in 1611; and a ballad in the Shirburn manuscript collection, entitled Of a maide nowe dwelling at the towne of meurs in dutchland, that hath not taken any foode this 16 yeares, and is not yet neither hungry nor thirsty, in Shirburn Ballads, 1585-1616, Andrew Clark (ed.), Oxford, 1907, pp. 55-9. George Hakewill’s An Apologie or Declaration of the Povver and Providence of God, 1635, lists several remarkable Protestant fasting women as examples ‘of wonderfull workes of God’ (p. 441). Four additional pamphlets appeared in 1668-9: the story of Jane Stretton is recounted in The Hartford-shire Wonder. Or, Strange News from VVare Being an Exact and true Relation of one Jane Stretton, London, 1669 (in Hertfordshire Folk Lore, introduction by W.B. Gerish, Bishop’s Stortford, 1908); and the story of Martha Taylor appears both in Thomas Robins’ two pamphlets, Newes from Darby-shire. Or The Wonder of all Wonders, London, 1668; and The Wonder of the World; Being A perfect Relation of a young Maid, about eighteen years of age, which hath not tasted of any Food this two and fifty weeks, London, 1669; and in John Reynolds’ A Discourse upon Prodigious Abstinence, London,

peculiar chapter in the history of the female body in western culture, these stories had as their subject a young girl or woman who lived for an extraordinary amount of time (weeks, months, and even years) without eating, or with ingesting only ‘tastes’ or ‘drops’ of delicate liquids. Their stories resonate with topics that have been addressed in previous chapters. Like Margaret Ratcliffe, the voices of the miracle maidens are either silenced or filtered through the voices of their authors, and thus we are effectively prevented from realizing their motivations and feelings. And like Anne Frankford and Penthea, their food refusal has the potential to disrupt the status quo of their world in a significant way. However, unlike Margaret Ratcliffe, Anne Frankford, and Penthea, who refuse food as a result of a traumatic life event (either the death of a brother or unrequited love in the case of Mistress Ratcliffe, or the awareness of one’s own sexual unfaithfulness in the case of the latter two), miracle maidens refuse food because it is distasteful to them. Further, where food refusal in A Woman Killed with Kindness is mapped onto the religious and political paradigm of possession and exorcism and The Broken Heart uses food refusal to query the efficacy of the practice of trafficking in women, the accounts of miracle maidens rely on colonial rhetoric to interpret transactional and cooperative interchanges between a household and a community.2