Anne Askew's achievements
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- She refused to be a silent woman in an age where women had little voice. - She was a strong independent woman who refused to be silent in public debate. She travelled to London to preach, although women were not expected to comment on matters of politics or theology but to defer, on such issues, to their fathers, husbands or brothers. She stood up for herself and argued in her letters that her arrest and condemnation without trial were illegal. She wrote letters requesting justice from the king and various officials. She argued forcefully and confounded her accusers with her knowledge and learning.
- She advanced her cause despite the terrible personal consequences. - She was a woman of courage and, by acting on her beliefs, she raised awareness of her Protestant views. By refusing to recant or deny what she thought to be true, even at the stake, Anne left a lasting impression that made others sit up and take notice. At a time of religious turmoil, what they saw was a young woman with such sincerity that she would sacrifice her life for her beliefs. For some the reasoning was: were these beliefs therefore worth taking a closer look at? As Foxe said, she left behind her 'a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow'.
- She skilfully resisted hours of interrogation. - During her interrogation she used her wit to outsmart her interrogators and to reveal their lack of knowledge of spiritual law. She skilfully avoided confrontation during hours of questions, yet made sure that she did not compromise her faith. She was clever; her only recantation was prefaced with the words “If God so wishes” - the implication being that she did not think that was God's wish. She answered so cleverly that, after her first arrest, she was acquitted. However, during her second interrogation she refused to assert that she believed in transubstantiation (the notion in the Christian sacrament that the wine and bread is literally the blood and body of Christ). She knew others had been burned for denying the ‘real presence’ which challenged the King's Act of Six Articles. Although repeatedly turning the tables on her accusers by questioning them, this time she was condemned.
- She resisted torture with dignity and refused to implicate anyone. - Anne was tortured because enemies of Queen Catherine Parr wanted to implicate her, or those close, by having Anne name them as Protestant. Charges were already being drawn up against the queen. Very few people that were placed on the rack resisted naming accomplices, but Anne never implicated anyone or denied her faith. The charges drawn up against Catherine Parr would have been much more serious if she, or any of her ladies in waiting, had been named by Anne.
- She wrote about her ordeal, which raised awareness. - These writings were smuggled out afterwards. Askew is primarily known for the two first-person narratives she composed regarding her imprisonment for heresy. In these works, known as the Examinations (1546, 1547), Anne tells of her improsonment and interrogation by authorities and refutes the accusations laid against her by exposing the theological errors apparent in the charges. After Anne was burned at the stake in 1546, the texts of these works were published by the Protestant John Bale and, later, John Foxe, both of whom used her narratives to support the Reformation.