Southcott, Joanna, 1750-1814

Alternative names
Birth 1750
Death 1814-10-27

Biographical notes:

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814) was an English prophet and writer.

From the description of Joanna Southcott papers, 1807-1823. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 766543278

Visionary religious leader from Devon, England.

From the description of John Burton collection of material relating to Joanna Southcott and her followers, 1796-1835. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 72552221

Southcott, an English domestic servant, began hearing voices at the age of 42 and believed these to be divine communications prophesying the Second Coming of Christ. By the time of her death in 1814, she had attracted over one hundred thousand followers. She dictated her prophecies primarily to her secretaries, Ann Underwood and Jane Townley, and these were often copied by others and then circulated among the believers.

From the description of Joanna Southcott collection, 1793-1864. (Princeton University Library). WorldCat record id: 82448919

English author and religious leader.

From the description of Sealing document, 1808. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122495084

Joanna Southcott (1750-1814) was an English prophet and writer. She was the daughter of a farmer and lived close to Exeter, England. From early youth she developed a habit of reading scripture and interpreting events within a spiritual framework, promising her dying mother that she would commit to a life of piety. Southcott worked as a farm laborer, maidservant and upholsterer, but in 1792, at age 42, she began to have visions in which she was spoken to by a voice predicting what would happen on earth. Over the next few years she attempted to have her visions accredited by the clergy and failing that, in 1801, began publishing her writings. She developed a following, moved to London, suffered numerous court trials, and in 1803-1804 went on a missionary tour of England.

Southcott's converts were part of The Southcottian movement, and prominent among them was Jane Townley who, in 1804, invited Southcott to live with her in London. From that time on Townley promoted Southcott's writings and cause and provided Southcott with her maidservant, Ann Underwood. Underwood became Southcott's amanuensis, as her handwriting was illegible. Southcott published 65 pamphlets between 1801-1814 and became one of the most popular writers of her time. In 1814, at age 64, she announced that she was pregnant and about to become the mother of "Shiloh," the expected divine incarnation of her past prophecies. While awaiting the supposed birth, she was examined by many medical specialists, but nevertheless she died on December 27, 1814. The movement continued after her death and it is estimated that by 1815 she had about 20,000 followers. In the following years much speculation grew over a "great box of prophecies" to be opened at some unspecified time in the future by church bishops in England. Source: Sylvia Bowerbank "Joanna Southcott" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.

From the guide to the Joanna Southcott papers, 1807-1823., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)


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  • Southcottian sects
  • Prophecies
  • Women prophets
  • Prophecies (Occultism)
  • Prophecies--History--19th century
  • Religious literature, English
  • Religious fundamentalism--History--Sources
  • Cults
  • Millennialism
  • Women authors, English--History--Sources
  • Prophets
  • Sects--History--19th century
  • Women authors, English
  • Prophecies--History


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  • England (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)
  • England (as recorded)