Anne Royall

1769 – 1854

Anne Royall (1769 – 1854) was an early example of the coherence of anti-clericalism, feminism and liberal attitudes to social progress.

In her book Women Without Superstition*, Annie Laurie Gaylor describes the life and work of this courageous and outspoken pioneer of criticism of Christianity, secularism and human rights, (before such views were respectable). An "Eccentric author, passionate defender of the Enlightenment, and an ardent foe of "Christian party in politics." Calling their aim of electing only Christians to government, outright treason.

Her husband, 28 years her senior who had employed her impoverished mother as a servant, was an admirer of the radical liberal progressives of his day, and his library informed Anne Royall’s ideas. Having been made penniless after her husband’s death, by relatives contesting his will, she had to keep herself by selling her books

She published a virulent attack on missionaries at home and abroad, that she wrote in 1829 – describing their cunning and greed, and the way they were able to buy influence, by their control of the press and its distribution. Writing of them she said "They swarm like locusts, getting money by trick and cunning, the more they get the more they want"

Anne Royall reviled religion, missionaries, piety, and sabatarianism, fought evangelicals in congress and destroyed Sunday school tracts, (though she called herself a deist – a common label of the era.).

In 1821, she wrote "What think you, Matt, of the Christian religion? Between you and I, and the bedpost, I begin to think it is all a plot of the priests. I have ever marked those professors, whenever humanity demanded their attention, the veriest savages under the sun"

She wrote and researched - exposed corruption in public office, opposed flogging, slavery, and promoted the rights of native American Indians, labourers and women, and supported ‘fallen’ women (though she did not call herself a feminist!) She also supported public investment, scientific research, and adequate income support in illness and old age.

For this she was called a virago and a monomaniac. She was harassed by neighbouring evangelists, threatened with the ‘ducking stool’ and arrested and convicted as’ a common scold’ And was feared and abused because she castigated individuals who snubbed her.

Below is part of the exerpt from Annie Royall’s ‘Missionaries’ chapter, in Black Book, volume III (1829) published now in *Women Without Superstition, No Gods, No Masters – The Collected Writings of Woman Freethinkers of the 19th & 20th Centuries. Edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor. Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Madison, Wisconsin.


"If those millions squandered on designing missionaries had been de-posited in funds for the support of yourselves, when old age, misfortune, or sickness (from which none are exempt,) overtakes you, or for the distressed of your race, what a heaven of happiness you would have created on earth: ye would now be an ornament to your sex, and ages to come would call you blessed. But it is in vain to try-a priest-ridden female is lost to reason. Why? because she has surrendered her reason to the priests-missionaries I mean-the orthodox; they are the grand deceivers....Fanaticism and bigotry require any food but common sense, and reason, which would break the charm of those spellbound fanatics....

I find that the whole weight of relieving human misery and distress falls on the shoulders of those Heretics and Infidels; and though great part of this distress has been occasioned by those ravening wolves' hopeful converts, if the amount of a piece of bread would save the life of a fellow man, he might perish in the street for them, who ever saw them relieve the poor. These Heretics are the men that feed the hungry, cloth the naked, take in the stranger, visit the sick and the prisoner....

These bible people remind me of another calamity similar to this missionary scheme, when our people, or any christian power would go to Africa for the pious purpose of kidnapping negroes, the mother would cry out to her children "run, run, the christians are coming," so when ever you hear "bibles," run for your life, if you do not want your pockets picked, or to be insulted and slandered as I was ... and if you hear "hopeful convertions" [sic] or the "gospel," don't stop to look behind you

... Do these Presbyterians, or orthodox ... think we have forgotten what use they made of power, when they had it? Do they think we have forgotten how they drenched England in blood, created a civil war, (what they are in a fair way to do here) and, when they could no longer retain the power of killing there, came over to this country, and began it afresh-dipping their hands in the blood of harmless, unresisting people? Do they think we have forgotten how they whipped, branded, banished, and imprisoned the innocent Quakers? Five of those who were banished, happening to return privately, to settle some private business, were taken and hung by those monsters, at one time. Do they think we have forgotten how they put innocent men, women, and children to death, in cool blood, under the pretence of witchcraft? "Even refused to bury the victims of their inhuman barbarity; but left them hanging on the gibbets, exposed to wild beasts, and birds of prey." The innocence of youth, the infirmities of old age, virgin modesty, fortune, honor, virtue, and the most dignified employments of the state, were no security; they hung a lawyer, because he refused to plead against those innocent sufferers; they hung seventeen in one day. Children of ten years of age were put to death; young girls were stripped naked, (by God's people, the ministers,) and the marks of witch- craft searched for, on their bodies, with the most indecent curiosity. Those spots of the scurvy, which age impresses upon the bodies of old men, were taken for evident signs of the infernal power. When witnesses failed, those blood-spilling monsters put the innocent creatures to tortures, to extort confessions dictated by their executioners, themselves; and they have the impudence to dictate to us now, to go to blood-spilling again; nothing else, under heaven. What else is it? They are in full possession of every liberty, but that of hanging heretics.... What did Calvin, their leader, do? Did he not burn an innocent man, by piece-meal-kept him three days in torture, by the flames-was this monster a Christian? True, all sects have been persecutors; but these persecutions were the acts of their tyrannical kings, pontiffs, and rulers. Not so those bloody Calvinists: they, when they have the power, devour their equals, their fellow men, with that wanton, savage ferocity, with which wild beasts destroy each other; and worse; for the wild beast only kills to satisfy his hunger; but those monsters of hypocrisy kill for the pure pleasure of seeing blood flow. It is bred in them; it is in their grain, and will never be extinguished; it is in the nature of their tenets, and a distinguishing trait of this sect.... Instead of inculcating those virtues which ennoble human nature, enlarge the powers of thinking, or advance their future happiness by a liberal course of improvement, they are taught that sordid avarice, and haughtiness, is religion; they tell the student that hating his neighbor, is religion; that all sects but his own are heretics, and must be exterminated to make way for God's people...."

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