Matthew F. Chandler’s Review of 5 PURITAN WOMEN: PORTRAITS OF FAITH AND LOVE, by Jenny-Lyn de Klerk

Published on May 29, 2023 by Eugene Ho

Crossway, 2023 | 160 pages

A Book Review from Books At a Glance

by Matthew F. Chandler


Jenny-Lyn de Klerk, an editor for Crossway and rising evangelical historian, is the author of 5 Puritan Women: Portraits of Faith and Love. De Klerk writes with “barefaced advocacy” (19) to highlight the important contributions of Puritan women. Although these women are largely neglected because “they do not always say what modern historians want them to say” (20), de Klerk desires for them to be read on their own terms. Readers, de Klerk hopes, will walk away seeing the importance of spiritual practices, household discipleship, and commitment to the family of God (25-27) as seen in these imitable women. The book consists of an introduction, five chapters each discussing a different woman, and a conclusion.

Chapter 1 discusses the life, controversies, and resilient faith of Agnes Beaumont. Despite two false accusations, Agnes is strengthened by the Word of God. First, after being accused by her father of fornication (for obtaining a ride to Church with John Bunyan), she finds respite in the texts of Matthew, Luke, and 1 Corinthians. Her faith culminates in leading him to faith and repentance before his untimely death. Second, after being accused of murder, she meditates on the texts of Job and Isaiah. Throughout each controversy, she was comforted by memorized verses which allow her to “act out of faith instead of fear” (42).

Chapter 2 examines the groundbreaking theological contribution of Lucy Hutchinson. As the only woman to write theological treatise in the 17th century (51), Lucy was certainly an intellectual. However, it was the recipient and purpose of her treatise which stands out. Written to her daughter soon after marriage, Lucy encourages her to “not be seduced by religious factions to stray from the ‘catholic faith and universal love wherein all that are true Christians must unite’” (52). As a “distinctively female” (61) contribution to theology, Hutchinson’s treatise is a prime example of family discipleship. 

Chapter 3 describes the devotion and charity of Mary Rich. As a self-centered romantic, Mary sought marriage to fulfill her deep desires. When the worldly gifts of marriage could not satisfy, she turned to God. In Him, she found refuge and lasting satisfaction. Despite not starting out a Puritan, Mary became intensely devoted to God in spiritual practices and philanthropy. Today, her legacy reminds us “that when we sincerely and intentionally apply our whole selves in times of devotion…we will love others instead of despising, coddling, or looking down on them” (88). 

In Chapter 4, de Klerk highlights the poetic life of Anne Bradstreet. Anne and her family move across the Atlantic to America to escape Puritan persecution. Unfortunately, a fire would soon ravish the Bradstreet home, followed by the death of multiple family members. To help her family process such loss, Anne writes incredible poetry. In the end, Anne teaches her family that God “will show us the way to eternity, where all our emotions are sorted out and our family and home are waiting” (110). 

Chapter 5 reviews the valiant life of Lady Brillana Harley. Harley is, for de Klerk, the most prestigious and gutsiest woman in the book. Brillana successfully defends Puritan refugees against a siege from English Royalists (114). In addition to the grit necessary to withstand a physical siege, she was also a ferocious letter writer. In her surviving collection of over 400 letters, readers see Brillana’s spiritual provision for her family. These letters show it is not just the momentous acts but the “thousands of acts of care we do for our many loved ones” (129) that live on.  

De Klerk provides portraits of five fierce, devoted, and loving Puritan women. Each woman displays a unique spiritual discipline that contributes to their inclusion in this work: devotion to God’s people (Beaumont), family discipleship (Hutchinson), philanthropy (Rich), poetic writing (Bradstreet), and letter writing (Harley). The strength of de Klerk’s work lies in reminding readers of a simple but neglected truth: most Christians throughout history learned spiritual truth and disciplines from faithful women (mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers). These five women deserve popular and academic attention because of their faithfulness to God’s Word and His family. 


Matthew F. Chandler 

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Crossway, 2023 | 160 pages

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