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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Bathsua Makin

b. circa 1600, Stepney, near London; d. circa 1675, London

Bathsua Makin, a scholar and teacher, penned the first treatise by an Englishwoman on women’s right to an education. Her father, Henry Reginald, operated a school in London, where Bathsua spent her early years, as both a student and teacher. Classmates remarked admiringly on her erudition and linguistic facility. In 1616, father and daughter published Ad Annam … reginam, demonstrating a shorthand system for taking notes which they had invented and called radiography. This was followed in the same year by Musa virginea, a collection of Bathsua’s poems written in six languages. At some point, she began to study medicine and earned a reputation around London as a healer; she later nursed her father when he became mentally ill and was confined at Bedlam. In 1622, Bathsua married Richard Makin and for the next two decades tended a growing household. Sometime before the birth of her eighth child (in 1642), she returned to teaching, first becoming tutor to Princess Elizabeth, then taking on other aristocratic pupils. In her seventies, Makin opened a school for girls, a project which gave rise to her feminist statement, An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen (1673), a vigorous defense of women’s intellectual capacities and a summation of her life’s work.