Elinor James (born Banckes, 1644 – 17 July 1719) was a British printer and controversialist who used her own printing press to address public concerns throughout her adult life. At seventeen, she married Thomas James, a printer in London, on 27 October 1662. She had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood.
From the time of Thomas becoming a master printer until her death, she wrote, printed, and distributed over ninety broadsheets and pamphlets under her own prominently displayed name. These were nearly always given titles that included her name, such as Mrs. James's Advice. Most of these broadsides were in the form of petitions to various rulers and governmental bodies, and she produced at least one a year for 35 years. They addressed kings, the Lords and Commons, lord mayors of London, the City of London's board of aldermen, and the clergy of the time. She was particularly vociferous about the Exclusion Crisis and the Glorious Revolution. She was also strongly anti-Puritan.
Some number of her broadsides petitioned on issues of the printing trade, such as government control of printing and taxation on paper, including one entitled "On Behalf of the Printers." In this she argued against the lifting of legal restrictions that had been to the advantage of existing printers, and that opening up the printing trade would result in increased unemployment and economic ruin in the trade.
In 1687, her Mrs. James's Vindication of the Church of England drew two responses. Both the satirical An Address of Thanks, on Behalf of the Church of England, to Mrs. James and the dismissive verse Elizabeth Rone's Short Answer to Elinor James's Long Preamble took her simplicity and prolixity to task. John Dryden also dismissed her in the preface to The Hind and the Panther. At the same time she was also protesting loudly against individual Puritan preachers, sometimes attending services personally and disrupting their sermons. She responded to Dryden and the others with Mrs. James's Defence of the Church of England, in a Short Answer to the Canting Address.
Elinor James opposed William III, taking a Jacobite stance. She was arrested and placed in Newgate Prison, tried and fined in 1689, after she had written, printed, and distributed a broadsheet accusing William III of ruling illegitimately, but she did not relent. In 1702, one satirist referred to her as the "London City Godmother".
She wrote against Titus Oates, who figured in the Popish Plot, accusing him of being no minister and fraudulently wearing clerical dress. He responded by beating her with his cane, for which he was found guilty of assault and fined.
- McDowell, Paula. On behalf of the printers; a late Stuart printer-author and her causes. in: Baron, Sabrina A, Eric N. Lindquist, and Eleanor F. Shevlin. Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies After Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007. pp. 125-139
- Elinor James, Printed Writings 1641–1700: Series II, Part Three, Volume 11, Rutgers University, retrieved 13 February 2015
- McDowell, Paula. "Elinor James" in Matthew, H.C.G. and Brian Harrison, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. vol. 29, 693-4. London: Oxford UP, 2004. p. 693