Anna Trapnell

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Anna Trapnell (sometimes Trapnel) was an alleged prophetess active in England in the 1650s, associated with the Fifth Monarchists whom she joined in 1652. In January 1654, Trapnell fell into a trance for eleven or twelve days, during which time she sang, prayed and prophesied before a large crowd of people. Her trance and the news of it propelled her to fame around England. She was sharply critical of the Protectorate government of Oliver Cromwell, she preached equality of the sexes, and officially, she was considered mad. In April 1654, she was arrested, imprisoned at Bridewell, and tried. Anticipating that she would be considered a taciturn witch she overwhelmed the court with verbosity, and was subsequently released in July of that same year. She continued her prophesies upon her release, and accounts of her activities were recorded in Strange and Wonderful Newes from White-Hall, The Cry of a Stone, A Legacy for Saints, and Anna Trapnel's Report and Plea, all published in 1654.

Early life

Anna Trapnell was born sometime during the 1630s in Stepney, England, in the Parish of St. Dunstan's. Her father was a shipwright, and brought his family up in a poor sailor's town. Despite not having been baptized, Trapnell had religious zeal at a very early age, for she said: "When a child, the Lord awed my spirit, and so for the least trespass, my heart was smitten."[1] She claims that her first recorded vision occurred after the death of her mother in 1647.

Journey into Cornwall

Anna Trapnell travelled to Cornwall on the whim of a dream. She was arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, and brought before the magistrates of the county. She had a very detailed account of the proceedings in her biography entitled, A Narrative of Her Journey Into Cornwall. Judges asked her questions about the reasons of her travels and her purpose for preaching. She responded with questions, parables, and quotations from the Bible. The intense questioning and the ambiguity of her responses is very reminiscent of the trial in Jesus before the Crucifixion. Whether this report of her trial is accurate, however, is debatable, for the only of account of Anna Trapnell's trial is her own.[2]


Anna Trapnell was a revolutionary woman writer, for she gained notoriety during a time when women were dismissed as incompetent. Her motivations are not known, and the accuracy of her stories is questionable considering they were all first-person accounts. However, the influence of her preaching and the size of her audience are impressive.


  1. ^ Purkiss, Diane, and Association Libraries. "The English Civil War". Basic Books, 2007.
  2. ^ Mintz, Susannah. "The Spectacular Self of Anna Trapnell's Report and Plea". Pacific Coast Philology, 2000.
  • Hobby, Elaine. Virtue of necessity: English women's writing 1649–88. University of Michigan, 1989.
  • Wright, Stephanie Hodgson. Women's writings of the early modern period 1588–1688. Edinburgh University, 2002.
  • Magro, Maria. "Spiritual Biography and Radical Sectarian Women's Discourse: Anna Trapnel and the Bad Girls of the English Revolution". Journal of Medieval and Modern Studies, 2004.

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