Julian of Norwich

It seems unfair that rhetoric and writing were so limited in the centuries between Plato and Julian of Norwich that when we search for women rhetors, we can find only a few to fill the gap of over a millennium. How can there even be said to be a tradition of women's rhetoric with gaps like that? It seems like an exercise in futility, trying to trace women through recorded history.

It is odd to me that the same institution that seems to be a large component of the suppression of women, the church, also gave a very few women the opportunity to take some control of their lives. The very structure of the church allowed them, if they were determined, convinced that god was speaking to them, to claim the rights of a religious. Indeed, the church provided a way for these women to claim the need to speak by divine right.

Unlike Aspasia's non-feminist calling the earth a mother, Julian's naming of Jesus as mother is revolutionary and uncommon. Against the patriarchal view of God the Father, Julian's visions in Revelations of Divine Love showed her a more whole version of God, encompassing both male and female, as would seem only logical for a perfect God. And if God were triune, then each piece must partake of both the male and the female, the generative and the creative.

Julian uses logical arguments to back up her divine revelations. "I understood three ways of seeing motherhood in God" (27). By laying out not only reasons, but three reasons, which harmonizes with the Holy Trinity. She provides a place for women within God, instead of excluding them from the divine as the traditional Father, Son and Holy Ghost layout does.

For the first time in writing, women were included in the church as a voice, an individual and a personal voice. Julian created a vision of God that gave women a place and an honor beyond that of being simply the mother of God - instead they may partake of God the Mother.

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