Hope Emily Allen

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Hope Emily Allen (1883–1960),[1] a medieval scholar, is best known for her research on the 14th-century English mystic Richard Rolle and for her discovery of the Book of Margery Kempe.

Early life[edit]

Born in Oneida, New York, Allen spent a great deal of her childhood there and later also lived in Niagara Falls, Canada. Allen completed her undergraduate studies at Bryn Mawr College in 1905 with special interests in the study of Middle English literary texts. The next year she completed graduate work, also at Bryn Mawr, in English literature and Greek, earning a master's degree. Allen had great concern for women's values and identity and continued to fight for these issues throughout her life. After Bryn Mawr, she went to Radcliffe to begin studying for her Ph.D, during which time she enrolled at Cambridge University in 1910 for a semester to study English literature. That semester was eventually elongated to a period of three years.

Scholarly career and feminism[edit]

Allen's time in Britain in the early 1900s allowed her to make a great number of personal and academic associations, as well as experience European culture. During her time in England, she pursued her two lifelong goals: medieval scholarship and feminism. Allen described herself as an "independent scholar," and she never accepted an academic teaching appointment. This independence allowed her to research more freely, so that she could closely examine texts that had not received recognition before. Her writing falls into three overlapping groups: her early work on the Ancrene Riwle, her insight into the study of Richard Rolle, and her research on the cultural background of The Book of Margery Kempe. Themes in her work include the spirituality of women in the late Middle Ages (Ancrene Riwle) and contradictions and impossibilities in the work of Richard Rolle.

In 1934, Allen identified the one surviving manuscript of the Book of Margery Kempe. She asked Sanford Brown Meech to collaborate with her in editing it.[2] 'However, Meech began mistreating Allen, and attempted to take over the edition' and 'eventually, the work was issued in two volumes, as the collaborators could not agree' on account of Meech's misogynistic attitude to Allen.[3]

Later life[edit]

Allen later returned to the United States, living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she continued to pursue her research and writing. She eventually returned to her hometown of Oneida, New York, and spent the last years of her life at the Mansion House in Kenwood, where she died in 1960.[4]

A biography of Allen was written J. C. Hirsch.[5] A significant collection of materials relating to her life can be found at the Bryn Mawr College Library. The papers consist primarily of research notes by Allen, photostats and typescripts of manuscripts, and professional correspondence. Topics include the Book of Margery Kempe, the Ancrene Riwle, and Richard Rolle.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Letters of Hope Emily Allen". Bodleian Library at Oxford University. 
  2. ^ Kathryn Maude, 'Citation and Marginalisation: The Ethics of Feminism in Medieval Studies', Journal of Gender Studies, 23 (2014), 1-15 (pp. 8-9), http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2014.909719.
  3. ^ Kathryn Maude, 'Citation and Marginalisation: The Ethics of Feminism in Medieval Studies', Journal of Gender Studies, 23 (2014), 1-15 (p. 9), http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2014.909719.
  4. ^ Hope Emily Allen Papers at Bryn Mawr College Library, used with permission of the Special Collections department.
  5. ^ J. C. Hirsh, Hope Emily Allen: Medieval Scholarship and Feminism (Norman, OK: Pilgrim Books, 1988).